Washington Governor Signs Net Neutrality Bill Into Law

State fight with FCC begins

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee teed up the states' rights fight with Washington, D.C., Monday (March 5), signing what he billed proudly as the first state law imposing net neutrality "protections" in the wake of the FCC's 2015 Open Internet order rule rollback last December.

The Washington state legislature voted late last year to prohibit companies offering internet access from blocking, throttling or paid prioritization.

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ISPs have said they don't and won't block or throttle data, but generally want the freedom to experiment with paid prioritization business models, though they have signaled that doesn't mean creating fast and slow "lanes."

“Today we make history: Washington will be the first state in the nation to preserve the open internet,” said Inslee. “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.”

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Washington is one of several states with bills in the works; additionally, governors in a handful of other states have signed executive orders preventing state contracts with ISPs that don't hew to similar prohibitions.

The FCC's Restoring Internet Freedom Order rolling back the rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization also pre-empted state attempts to re-impose them, but it is unclear how that applies to state contracts. In any case, a legal fight is brewing along with the other legal fight to nullify the order. Companies and groups have begun to sue the FCC to challenge the December rules rollback, and in congress, Hill Democrats -- plus one Republican -- are aiming for a Congressional Review Act resolution.