Oregon is pushing to become another state enforcing its own protection against internet service providers in the wake of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) discontinuing its net neutrality rules. The state’s proposal to create a local net neutrality policy passed the House on Monday, February 26 by a large margin, and now heads to the Senate.
Similar to what New York state now enforces, Oregon’s plan is to block state agencies from conducting business with internet service providers (ISPs) that don’t abide by net neutrality principles. Even though the FCC’s rules will officially go offline in April, state governments still expect ISPs to abide by those rules and treat all content and connections equally.
The big fear with the elimination of net neutrality is that unregulated ISPs will prioritize content. For instance, an ISP could offer its own media streaming service and throttle Netflix streaming speeds. In order for Netflix to have the same flow of data, the ISP could charge Netflix additional fees which would trickle down to subscribers.
While ISPs already provide multiple speed tiers to meet the budgets of all web surfers, blocking and/or prioritizing specific apps and content could lead to dividing the internet into “performance” tiers. Many ISPs already pledge to abide by net neutrality, but so far there is no written guarantee these companies won’t backtrack on their promise.
That is where the states come in. The governors in five states already have net neutrality rules in place including Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont. Eight other states are still working on finalizing their net neutrality rules the old-fashioned way: Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Washington, and Wisconsin.
In most cases, these states aren’t regulating internet connections in the home. Instead, they’re making sure state-owned agencies and services aren’t dealing with mischievous content-throttling ISPs. These include educational institutions, offices spread out across the state, and public internet access. Anyone jumping on the internet from these access points is guaranteed a free and open web.
The FCC’s net neutrality rules officially come to a close on April 23 but ISPs won’t be let loose without some sort of a leash. These companies are required to publicly provide their commercial terms of service and must keep the public informed about their network management practices along with performance characteristics. The FCC believes this is a better option than forcing “costly” rules.
But lawmakers feel that pulling business away from ISPs not honoring net neutrality may be influential but won’t change their business practices. Others fear that overreaching state-owned agencies could regulate internet content on their own.
Oregon’s move to force net neutrality follows Washington’s recent bill landing a majority approval in the state House on February 9, which is now facing a vote in the Senate. But like all the other states enforcing their own net neutrality rules, Washington could face a legal battle. The FCC clearly stated that it will block any state-enforced ruleset that contradicts what it already has in place.
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