Washington has become the first state to pass a law that protects net neutrality by preventing Internet service providers (ISPs) from decreasing or blocking content online. Democratic Governor Jay Inslee signed the bill (House Bill 2282) this morning, which prohibits ISPs from blocking legal content, applications and services. It will also prevent slower connection speeds, also known as acceleration, as well as paid prioritization, where ISPs favor certain traffic that is beneficial to them.
"At the heart of our action today is consumer protection," Inslee told The New York Times. "States must act because, under the Trump administration, we have seen citizens, including seven million in Washington, stripped of basic protections like the open Internet."
The Associated Press notes that this is not technically the first network neutrality law (Oregon has also passed laws), but it is the first law where violations of all ISPs are enforceable, pursuant to the Washington Consumer Protection Act. The Federal Communications Commission approved a measure to eliminate net neutrality rules in a 3-2 vote in December. The FCC banned state laws from contradicting the decision, so it is very likely that ISPs will report to the state of Washington on this new law to find out if the FCC has the power to preempt the decision.
"At the center of our action today is consumer protection."
The FCC's order that killed net neutrality claimed that individual states that implement their own net neutrality laws would cause too much difficulty and confusion if the rules were made state by state. It is worth noting, however, that the FCC previously lost a ruling to preempt state laws that prohibit municipal ISPs. "States have full rights to protect their citizens," Inslee said, adding that he trusts the legality of state law, according to the AP.
Since the FCC approved the elimination of net neutrality rules, a series of lawsuits have arisen. In January, 22 attorneys general filed a lawsuit to block the repeal, while New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order that would require Internet service providers to comply with network neutrality rules despite the reversal. The Democrats are also fighting against repeal in the Senate.
As previously reported, it is expected that the new FCC network neutrality rules will be activated for the general public on April 23. The net neutrality law of the state of Washington will take effect before June 6.