US State Passes Law To Block FCC Net Neutrality Vote

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

More headaches for Aji Pai as Washington State passes law to stop ISPs offering two speed Internet access

The US communications regulator, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), is facing growing opposition to its decision to overturn Net Neutrality laws in America.

Washington States has signed a law that will prevent Internet Service Providers from blocking websites or offering fast lane net access to companies willing to pay.

It comes after the FCC, under the leadership of republican chairman Ajit Pai, had voted 3-2 in December to overturn Net Neutrality regulations, in a move that many feel will damage the future of an open Internet in the United States.

State Challenge

But this immediately triggered a hostile reaction, and the new law in Washington State is a direct challenge to the FCC and its attempt to reverse the net neutrality laws delivered under the former Obama administration.

Those laws were designed to stop service providers from blocking, slowing access to or charging more for certain content.

Democrat Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State signed the FCC-opposing law on Monday after it was passed with broad bipartisan support in the state legislature, the New York Times reported.

“At the core of our action today is consumer protection,” Gov Inslee was quoted as saying. “States need to act because under the Trump administration, we have seen citizens, including seven million in Washington, stripped of core protections like the open internet.”

And the FCC chairman, who was appointed by President Trump, has more problems on its hands as it is understood that lawmakers in about two dozen US states have introduced bills similar to Washington State.

Federal Law

And multiple governors, including in New York and Montana, have signed executive actions that prohibit internet service providers with state contracts from blocking or slowing data on their lines.

And this is on top of a number of lawsuits filed against the FCC from consumer groups and numerous state attorneys general, against the FCC decision to reverse Net Neutrality.

The FCC meanwhile has said that as it is the Federal agency, only it has the power to introduce these laws, so legal action is sure to follow.

Yet the FCC decision was not fully supported by all FCC commissioners, as it was only passed after a 3-2 vote in December.

One of those commissioners who voted against the repeal, Mignon Clyburn, told the BBC: “Washington state’s new net neutrality law underscores what we all know: that a substantial majority of the public is in favour of net neutrality protections.

“I commend Governor Inslee and the Washington state legislature for listening to their constituents and ensuring that the citizens of Washington continue to experience a free and open internet.”

Growing Opposition

Last week it emerged that Democrats in the US Senate had launched a last ditch attempt to reinstate net neutrality rules in the United States.

Pai however is determined to get his way and has previously said net neutrality was “a mistake” and he favoured a ‘light touch’ regime of regulation that would ‘not stifle innovation’.

Yet the overturning of the net neutrality rules had been as opposed by many in the tech industry and beyond.

Indeed, such was the fallout from the decision, that Pai in January this year unexpectedly cancelled an appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas because of death threats.

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