In the face of net neutrality’s imminent doom tomorrow, Washingtonians can at least feel good about our state’s efforts to preserve it. Last week Governor Inslee sent a strongly-worded letter to the FCC about how the repeal would strangle innovation and damage tech jobs here. And now, one state legislator wants to make sure that, at least here in Washington, the open internet remains open.
“Literally no one other than the giant cable companies think that it's a good idea to let the giant cable companies dictate the speed and price of the content you view on the internet,” says Representative Drew Hansen (D-Bainbridge Island), who is introducing HB 2282, a bill designed to protect consumers in the state from said giant cable companies.
And what Hansen says is pretty much true—a recent poll from the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation found that 83 percent percent favored keeping net neutrality laws in place.
“We believe in a free and open internet, a wide-open platform for ideas and debate, and commerce, and letting the giant cable companies throttle that because of their basic effective monopoly on broadband service in many areas just seems like a bad idea.” Hansen continued.
“A terrible, terrible, stupid idea,” he added, one more time, just to make sure we all got the point.
The bill would make sure that even if the FCC decides to repeal net neutrality rules at the federal level, they can remain in place in Washington under the state's Consumer Protection Authority. It would force broadband providers to publicly disclose accurate information about the price and speed of their internet services, and stop these companies from being able to block content online. They wouldn’t be able to engage in paid prioritization—creating internet “fast” and “slow” lanes for consumers who would have to pay more to access the internet.
Even though net neutrality can be repealed by the FCC, Hansen says states “have historically had very broad consumer protection authority.” And even though the FCC plans to try and squash states from making their own net neutrality rules, Hansen believes the FCC doesn’t have the authority to stop them without Congressional approval. But first, the bill needs to pass—which now seems likelier than ever.
Hansen says the bill was passed in the House “with gigantic bipartisan support,” but was “bottled up” by Senate Republicans and didn’t make it to the floor.
(“Spoiler alert: that bill is coming back next year, Lord willing,” says Hansen.)
But now that there’s a Democratic majority in both Washington state's House and Senate, the chances of Hansen’s net neutrality bill getting passed are good.
“Perhaps everyone will see reason and vote in favor of consumer advocates and the many, many disadvantaged groups who will be harmed by the removal of net neutrality, from average consumers to companies like Amazon and Facebook that depend on free access to the Internet,” Hansen says.
But he knows there’s one group who probably won’t be on board: “You can guess that Verizon, for example, is not going to like it.”