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Gov. Jay Inslee speaks at an event in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Monica Nickelsburg)

Internet companies may still need to comply with net neutrality standards if they want to do business in Washington state — even if the Obama-era regulations are repealed tomorrow.

Gov. Jay Inslee, Attorney General Bob Ferguson, and other officials announced a plan today to maintain standards in Washington that require internet providers to offer the same speed of service for all online content. The news comes on the eve of a vote by the Federal Communications Commission. It is expected to roll back regulations that prevent companies like Comcast and Verizon from throttling service to some content or creating a “fast lane” that customers can pay for.

Inslee’s 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. Washington is the first state to “proactively protect net neutrality,” according to Inslee.

“Washington state is going to stand up for innovation,” Inslee said during a press conference Wednesday. “It is going to stand up for consumers and it is going to stand up for an open internet.”

The state also plans to flex its muscle as a big internet customer “to incentivize Washington companies to adhere to net neutrality principles.” That’s according to an announcement published by Gov Inslee’s office Wednesday.

The announcement details additional methods the state can use to pressure internet companies to maintain net neutrality standards, like exploring municipal broadband and pursuing legislation that favors neutral providers.

Comcast has repeatedly said it does not plan to “block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content.” Verizon has echoed that sentiment.

“This is not the end of net neutrality,” Comcast said in a statement. “Despite repeated distortions and biased information, as well as misguided, inaccurate attacks from detractors, our Internet service is not going to change. Comcast customers will continue to enjoy all of the benefits of an open Internet today, tomorrow, and in the future.”

The FCC has accepted more than 20 million public comments on the proposal to repeal net neutrality regulations. Ferguson’s office is looking into reports of fake comments submitted to the FCC in support of its plan. Today he and 17 other attorneys general sent a letter to the FCC asking to delay its vote until the potentially fraudulent comments can be investigated.

Bob Ferguson
Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson. (GeekWire Photo / Dan DeLong)

Bellevue wireless carrier T-Mobile submitted its own comments to the FCC and actually warned against states taking action if federal regulations are repealed.

“T-Mobile and other providers have seen state regulators take an increasingly active role with respect to broadband Internet access service,” the comments say. “Having shown their propensity to regulate broadband, it is virtually certain that they will try to
do so again absent a definitive bar. Such actions will impose significant costs and undermine consumer interests.”

Moz CEO Sarah Bird and Sub Pop Recordings IT Director Andrew Sullivan joined Inslee and Ferguson during today’s press conference to announce Washington’s net neutrality plan.

“If this is rolled back and we have kingmakers in this marketplace where we have never had them before, there will be fewer startups and less innovation and particular kinds of technology that we need so greatly right now will be completely left in the cold,” Bird said during the event. ” It’s very critical that this rule stays in place for all of us.”

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