Since the FCC voted last week to abolish net neutrality regulations, California, Washington, and New York State have vowed to take up the cause. New York is one of the first out the gate. State Assemblymember Patricia Fahy—a Democrat whose district includes the capital, Albany—has drafted a short piece of legislation to introduce this week. It requires the state government, state agencies, and local governments (including New York City) to do business only with ISPs that adhere to net neutrality principles of no blocking or slowing down access to any legal content. Nor can they allow paid prioritization, or offer content providers premium-priced “fast lanes” for better service.
“If you are going to be a contractor and want to work with New York, then you must meet the principles,” Fahy tells Fast Company. She hopes that this approach will get around a roadblock known as preemption. The Constitution generally gives the federal government final authority over commercial activities that cross state lines. But while New York can’t require ISPs to uphold net neutrality, it can use its “power of the purse” to punish ISPs that don’t.
“There’s a decent amount of precedent for saying, if you want a state contract, you have to meet such and such requirements,” she says, noting construction contracts contingent on certain labor practices or the use of U.S.-made steel.
But New York State isn’t quite united. Brad Hoylman, the Democrat state senator representing Manhattan, has also pledged legislation, but the two lawmakers are not currently coordinating. Fahy’s legislative aide, Jake Egloff, says her office is now talking with “a few Senators” about signing on to a joint bill.