OLYMPIA – Washington became the first state in the nation to require internet service be “net neutral” as Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bipartisan bill Monday afternoon.
The law, which will take effect in June, does not allow internet service providers to slow down service to some customers, block lawful sites or organizations or degrade lawful internet traffic. Internet providers will also be required to disclose information about their management practices, performance and commercial terms.
Provisions of the law could be prosecuted under the state’s Consumer Protection Act.
Inslee called it an example of the state – what he called “the real Washington” – acting to protect consumers after the Federal Communications Commission dropped those protections.
“When Washington, D.C., fails to act, Washington state needs to do so,” he said at a bill signing ceremony attended by members of both parties who supported the bill.
The FCC removed net neutrality requirements imposed in 2015 under the Obama Administration. Internet service providers said they weren’t necessary and could restrict the expansion of faster internet into underserved areas.
Although a handful of states have taken executive action to address concerns about the FCC’s action, Washington is the first state to pass a law requiring the rules to be followed within its boundaries.
The new law will protect consumers and small businesses who might not be able to afford higher internet service fees possible under the FCC rules that large corporations could absorb, he said. He believes the state can withstand any legal challenge to the new law.
“We feel very confident in our position,” Inslee said.
The bill received strong bipartisan support in both chambers of the Legislature, overcoming the objections of opponents who said the state should wait for Congress to enact nationwide legislation.
Internet service providers had also lobbied the Legislature not to pass the bill, arguing consumer protections could be enforced by a separate national agency, the Federal Trade Commission.
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