New York Governor Andrew Cuomo plans to ensure internet access based on net neutrality within the local government. In a signed executive order, no New York State government agency is allowed to do business with internet service providers (ISPs) that don’t abide by net neutrality-based principles. The executive order does not regulate ISP business practices within the private sector.
The order covers everything maintained by the government, such as educational institutions, offices spread out across the state, and public internet access. The declaration guarantees a free and open internet to any individual accessing the web from these points. The government can’t dictate how ISPs regulate internet connections in homes and businesses.
Prior to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reclassifying ISPs a public utility, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) kept these companies in check. ISPs didn’t throttle internet speeds or filter content save for addressing customers found downloading pirated content and those who went over their monthly data allowance. But the FCC reclassified ISPs in February 2015, finalized a set of regulations four months later, and then repealed those rules at the end of 2017.
Many ISPs pledge to keep the internet free and open, devoid of any content restrictions or throttling. Even the State of New York admits this dedication. “Many of the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) serving New Yorkers have made public pledges to continue to abide by the principles of a free and open internet despite the FCC’s actions,” the governor’s office states. Yet the executive order serves as a “just in case” safety net if ISPs happen to change their mind.
“New York State has a responsibility to ensure the efficient procurement of goods and services for the State of New York and its political subdivisions and the principles of net neutrality are inherently tied to the provision of high quality, high-speed broadband internet service for the State,” the order says.
The FCC is currently under fire for allegedly using millions of fake comments to back its net neutrality repeal. The U.S. Government Accountability Office is investigating the issue based on claims that many comments were created by bots impersonating both the living and dead. They were provided in a comment system created by the FCC for receiving public feedback.
Prior to the net neutrality rules, there were no clear legal protections preventing ISPs from price gouging based on local monopolies, and adjusting the quality of service based on levels of internet consumption. There were many attempts to establish rules prior to 2015, but all failed. The FCC’s rules served as a guarantee of an open, unregulated internet if any ISP desired to fall back on a model based on content filtering, speed throttling, and price gouging.
But that would be bad business and create a nasty, costly backlash. The executive order even says that “New York State is a significant purchaser of internet and broadband services.” That revenue generator alone should help keep ISPs in check … at least in New York.
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