A bill to preserve net neutrality in Washington state offers the first detailed glimpse of the state’s broader plan to combat a Dec. 14 vote by the Federal Communications Commission to repeal those regulations nationwide.
Rep. Drew Hansen, a Democrat from Bainbridge Island, announced plans for the bill two weeks ago, but the full text (below) hasn’t been widely reported. Hansen’s bill would make it illegal for broadband internet providers in Washington state to “block lawful content, applications, services, or nonharmful devices,” “engage in paid prioritization,” or interfere with “end users’ ability to select, access, and use broadband internet access service or the lawful internet content, applications, services, or devices of their choice.”
The bill also forbids blocking content from “edge providers,” like Google, Facebook, and Netflix.
Plans for the bill were announced on the same day as the FCC’s historic vote to roll back Obama-era net neutrality protections. Net neutrality regulations required internet providers to deliver all content at the same speed and made it illegal prioritize or throttle specific types of traffic.
The FCC voted to repeal net neutrality despite the protests of tech companies, politicians, and activists. The commission anticipated bills like the one Hansen introduced and included language in its repeal that prohibits states and local governments from establishing their own net neutrality protections.
Hansen’s bill is part of a broader effort in Washington state to rebuke the FCC’s net neutrality repeal. On the eve of the vote, Gov. Jay Inslee, Attorney General Bob Ferguson, and other officials announced a plan to maintain net neutrality in Washington by creating an environment that compels internet providers to offer the same speed of service for all online content. The plan would start by directing Washington’s Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) to establish a certification that internet companies can acquire by complying with net neutrality principles. Without that certification, the state would not provide benefits like easements and use of UTC poles.
A few hours after the, vote Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) announced plans to introduce a Congressional resolution to undo the FCC’s net neutrality repeal. The resolution will be introduced jointly with 15 of her colleagues in the Senate. It could overturn the FCC’s decision with a simple majority in both chambers of Congress.
Utility poles and other strategies Inslee outlined are not mentioned in Hansen’s bill. Instead, it focuses on consumer protection. The bill would add a chapter to Title 19 of the Revised Code of Washington, a broad section of Washington law pertaining to business regulation.
Washington will almost certainly face pushback from the FCC for attempting to create in-state net neutrality protections. During the Dec. 14 vote, Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said he would not stand for “a hodgepodge of state rules” suggesting a legal challenge would follow Hansen’s bill if it is passed by the Washington state legislature.
Continue reading for the full text of House Bill 2282, which will be considered during the 2018 regular session.