Washington’s elected officials are right to challenge the Federal Communications Commission’s terrible decision to rescind net-neutrality protections.
Washington representatives in the state Legislature and Congress are showing great leadership in their work to restore net-neutrality protections.
This crusade should continue until sense is restored at the Federal Communications Commission, which voted in December to rescind its 2015 net neutrality rules, including the classification of broadband as an essential utility.
That capped a disgraceful year by an agency that also gutted rules to preserve the diversity of news-media voices, made it easier for broadcasters to consolidate and prevented companies from offering a federal discount on broadband service to the poor.
Washington representatives are responding in three ways that deserve support from their constituents.
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In Congress, U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray are part of an effort to force a Senate vote on whether to override the FCC’s net-neutrality reversal, which took effect on Feb. 22.
They’re part of a coalition of 49 Senators and 149 House members keeping the spotlight on this important issue.
Cantwell said repeal is a longshot, but the effort is important to educate colleagues in Congress and the public “about how devastating this can be to the economy.”
Of particular concern in Washington is the effect on startups with online business models. They need an open, level playing field to compete with incumbents.
The FCC’s decision is also being challenged in court by Washington and 21 other states. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson in January joined the process by petitioning the FCC to change its position.
In the meantime, Washingtonians should benefit from special net-neutrality protections in a bill introduced by state Rep. Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island. Substitute House Bill 2282 was approved by a wide margin in the Legislature. Gov. Jay Inslee is supportive and is expected to sign it into law shortly.
The bill prohibits internet providers in Washington from blocking content, services and devices, with a few exceptions. It also prohibits them from throttling traffic on the basis of content and from prioritizing traffic.
Providers are also required to disclose information about their performance and network management practices.
States’ ability to regulate broadband companies is generally pre-empted by federal rules.
But Hansen believes that the FCC relinquished its authority over net neutrality rules by rescinding them nationally. Washington also has authority to protect residents under its Consumer Protection Act.
“That is a very concrete way that people can show the FCC that we truly believe in a free and open internet,” Hansen said.
Indeed we do. Keep up this important fight.