Just days after the Trump administration finalized its repeal of national net neutrality regulations, Washington State has passed sweeping legislation to regulate internet access for its residents. The bill cleared the state senate on a 35-to-14 vote, with bipartisan support. It had already blown through the house of representatives by 93-to-5 on February 9, and governor Jay Inslee is on record as ready to sign it.
“It’s swift bipartisan action to protect net neutrality, which is terrific,” the bill’s main sponsor, Democratic representative Drew Hansen, tells Fast Company.
Other state governments have issued executive orders or proposed legislation in response to the FCC’s vote on December 14 vote to scrap federal net neutrality regulations, but Washington’s policy is the most ambitious. Governor’s orders in states like Montana, New Jersey, and New York make adherence to net neutrality policies a precondition for ISPs that want state government contracts.
Washington’s law applies to all ISPs that serve residents, whether or not they have state deals. All internet service offered in Washington would have to be free from blocking or throttling of legal online content. Nor could it be subject to a system of premium-priced “fast lanes” that offer better bandwidth to content providers that pay extra for the privilege.
The next step is almost certainly the courts. In its “Restoring Internet Freedom” order that abolished net neutrality regulations, the FCC claimed that its policy preempts the authority of state governments. Washington State is challenging that.
“Just because the FCC claims it has the power to preempt state laws doesn’t mean that it actually does,” says Hansen. “I can claim that I have the power to manifest unicorns on the Washington State Capitol lawn. But if you look outside right now, there are no unicorns.”
Read more: How To Roll Your Own Net Neutrality