Washington becomes first state to pass its own net neutrality bill

Gov. Jay Inslee signs the nation’s first Net Neutrality bill.

Three months after state leaders vowed to safeguard net neutrality despite rollbacks by the Federal Communications Commission, Gov. Jay Inslee has signed a bill to protect an open internet in Washington.

With his signature, Washington became the first state in the nation to pass a law to protect net neutrality, an announcement from the governor’s office said.

In 2015, the FCC created rules against blocking legal content, throttling traffic and using paid prioritization for some traffic. The FCC reversed these net neutrality rules earlier this year.

Washington’s new law, House Bill 2282, protects those net neutrality rules at the state level, ensuring that internet providers cannot advantageously manipulate internet speeds and access to content.

“Today we make history: Washington will be the first state in the nation to preserve the open internet,” Inslee said during today’s bill signing ceremony. “We’ve seen the power of an open internet. It allows a student in Washington to connect with researchers all around the world — or a small business to compete in the global marketplace. It’s allowed the free flow of information and ideas in one of the greatest demonstrations of free speech in our history.”

The law will prohibit companies that offer internet services from blocking legal content, applications, services or nonharmful devices. It will prohibit them from impairing — or throttling — internet traffic based on the content internet users consume, or the apps, services and devices they use. And it will prohibit them from favoring certain traffic for the company’s own benefit, a practice referred to as paid prioritization.

The new law will also require internet provider companies to disclose certain service information about network management practices, performance and terms to their consumers.

Proponents of the measure say it is a small business issue as well as a consumer rights issue. The bill creates a fair playing field in the industry, allowing new businesses to get off the ground without the potential threat of unfair practices by established companies.

Sarah Bird, CEO of Seattle-based search engine optimization company Moz, hailed the bill’s passage.

“As more of our economic opportunities such as education, health care, banking, job functions, media viewing and relationships thrive online, the more important it is to preserve consumer choice,” Bird said. “Internet service providers cannot be allowed to substitute their money-motivated judgment on how you spend your time online. Our internet economy is the envy of the world; Washington lawmakers are helping make sure that remains true.”

Passing the law was the result of quick action by a bipartisan group of elected officials in Washington, including Inslee, Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Reps. Drew Hansen and Norma Smith, and Sens. Reuven Carlyle and Kevin Ranker.

“Net neutrality is important to everyone — our constituents, small business owners, teachers, entrepreneurs, everyone,” Hansen said. “This is a cause with overwhelming bipartisan support. It’s always nice to see something where Democrats and Republicans can work together to maintain common-sense consumer protections.”

“This is not a partisan issue,” Smith added. “This is about preserving a fair and free internet so all Washingtonians can participate equally in the 21st century economy. Net neutrality is an issue of tremendous importance that will matter today, tomorrow and generations from now.”

The state’s net neutrality law will take effect by June 6.



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