Washington has become the first state in the U.S. to pass legislation mandating net neutrality after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted in December to end the rule.
Net neutrality is a principle that says no Internet traffic should get special treatment, and Internet service providers can’t block or degrade certain traffic because the website or service pumping it out isn’t willing to pay up for prioritization.
Although the FCC is in the process of rescinding the rule, most Americans are in favor of net neutrality. And states are stepping in where Ajit Pai’s FCC refuses to tread.
“Today we make history: Washington will be the first state in the nation to preserve the open internet,” Washington Governor Jay Inslee said Monday, as he signed the legislation. “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 state’s law prohibits broadband companies from blocking legal content, applications and services, or blocking “non-harmful devices” from connecting to their networks. It also bans the throttling of certain Internet traffic—something providers have in the past done with Internet voice services—along with paid prioritization.
Washington isn’t the only state taking such action, even if it’s the first to see it through to the finish line. Oregon’s house and senate have passed a similar measure, and Governor Kate Brown is expected to approve it. More than half a dozen other states are also considering net neutrality legislation.
In some states, governors have taken a more direct approach, signing executive orders that mandate net neutrality. These include Vermont, Montana, New York, and New Jersey.
In Hawaii, Governor David Ige ordered state government agencies to only take Internet-related services from companies whose contracts include net neutrality principles.
Meanwhile, a coalition of almost two dozen state attorneys general is suing the FCC at the U.S. Court of Appeals, demanding a federal-level rollback of the agency’s decision.