Washington Embraces Net Neutrality

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Washington Embraces Net Neutrality


If federal regulators will not impose net neutrality rules on the Internet, then states will take the lead on this issue. At least, that is what is happening in Washington state.


In early March, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a net neutrality bill that passed the state legislature by large margins. This bill would prohibit Internet service providers from blocking content that complies with the law, slowing down or stopping Internet traffic based on content, or allowing companies to offer prioritization for customer who pay more.


This legislation essentially codifies the network neutrality regulations overturned by the Federal Communications Commission late last year. The FCC ruled that Congress had not granted the agency statutory power to enact such rules, reversing a decision that the FCC had made during the Obama Administration. Instead, the FCC enacted what it calls a “light touch framework.”


Companies affected by the Washington legislation are likely to challenge it in court. Some observers contend that FCC’s action pre-empts state legislation of this type. They say that states cannot usurp federal regulatory authority. Further, they argue that if such regulations were left to states, it would make it difficult for companies to offer services nationwide given the patchwork of different rules they would face.


Supporters of the Washington bill counter that the FCC ruled that it did not have authority to regulate the Internet in this way, so states are free to act. They say that such rules are essential to an open Internet, and the federal government has left no option but to pursue this issue in state legislatures.


Legislators in other states will be watching what happens with the Washington law. There are similar proposals being considered across the country. While some states may act before any legal challenges over the Washington legislation are complete, others will wait to see what the judiciary has to say. If this law is held to be legal, then there will likely be a number of other states that will enact similar measures.


Do you think that states should enact net neutrality legislation? Or do you think that different laws across the nation will hamper online innovation?


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