Washington Moves to Fight Trump Administration's Net Neutrality Rollback

State leaders vow to preserve net neutrality in Washington state.
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Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Attorney General Bob Ferguson and other state legislators and business leaders announced Wednesday that Washington would seek to “preserve an open internet” on the state level if the Federal Communications Commission votes to undo the nation’s net neutrality rules.

This would make Washington state the first in the nation to pursue a state-level solution to address this issue.

The FCC voted Thursday to repeal net neutrality rules. The vote was 3-2.  

Following the vote, Ferguson announced that he intends to file a lawsuit along with other attorneys general challenging the decision.

"We are 5-0 against the Trump Administration because they often fail to follow the law when taking executive action," he said in a statement. "There is a strong legal argument that with this action, the federal government violated the Administrative Procedure Act — again. ... Allowing internet service providers to discriminate based on content undermines a free and open internet. Today’s action will seriously harm consumers, innovation and small businesses."

Making the initial announcement on Dec. 13 in anticipation of the vote, Inslee was joined by Ferguson, Reps. Drew Hansen (D) and Norma Smith (R), newly elected state senator Manka Dhingra, Moz.com Chief Executive Officer Sarah Bird, and Sub Pop Recordings Information Technology Director Andrew Sullivan.

In a post on Medium, Inslee’s office said, “While the FCC’s vote will preempt states from ensuring full net neutrality, there are a number of steps that can be taken at the state level to promote an open internet and strengthen protections for consumers.” 

Inslee’s proposal would include “pursuing the following actions,” it said.

Hold companies to their commitments not to block websites, throttle speeds, or impose prioritization pricing

  • Direct the state’s Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) to establish a process for ISPs to certify that they will not engage in practices inconsistent with net neutrality principles.

  • Limit state-conferred benefits to ISPs that have made such certifications.

  • Limit applicability of UTC pole attachment rules to ISPs that are net neutral.

  • Review other state-conferred benefits such as easements and taxes.

Leverage the state’s power as a large purchaser of ISP and telecommunications services

  • Use the state government’s role as a big customer, and our ability to establish state master contracts used by local governments, to incentivize Washington companies to adhere to net neutrality principles.

  • Pursue regulatory and legislative action to award contracts to vendors that meet net neutral business requirements.

  • Lead the exploration of a multi-state purchasing cooperative to procure internet service from providers that adhere to net neutrality principles.

Hold companies accountable for warranties made to consumers

  • Create a state-wide internet speed test. This will allow Washingtonians to test their own broadband speed at home, and submit the test to help appropriate state agencies determine what internet speeds consumers are receiving and where companies may be blocking or throttling.

  • Collaborate with legislators to strengthen our consumer protection laws to include the principles of net neutrality.

Encourage new entrants into the currently concentrated ISP market

  • Pursue legislation authorizing public utility districts and rural and urban port districts to provide retail ISP and telecommunications services.

  • Prohibit government-owned ISP services, such as municipal broadband networks, from engaging in blocking, throttling, or priority pricing for Internet services.

Inslee wrote a letter expressing concern with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to repeal net neutrality last week, saying “Net neutrality principles ensure large corporations are never in the position of deterring innovation, obstructing entrepreneurship or disenfranchising citizens. They are essential to preserving the very foundation of the internet as we know it, while enabling digital innovation in Washington State and across the country to grow unbridled by corporate interference. Unfortunately, the Commission’s draft order undermines these core principles and for the first time allows broadband providers — rather than the marketplace — to pick the winners and losers in the 21st century economy.”

Inslee was recently elected chair of the Democratic Governors Association. It remains to be seen if the other 15 states with Democratic governors will follow Washington state’s lead.

This story originally appeared in Seattle Business Magazine.

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