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Vermont becomes fifth state to sign order supporting net neutrality

Vermont has become the fifth state to adopt new rules regarding net neutrality, the Register reported. Montana, New Jersey, Hawaii, and New York have already adopted regulations mandating support for net neutrality.

On Thursday, governor Phil Scott signed an executive order which stated that “the principles of net neutrality are inherently tied to the provision of reliable, high-quality broadband Internet service for the State.” His order mandated that state agencies only use ISPs that promise not to engage in throttling, blocking, or prioritizing of network content.

While the governor alone can’t force ISPs to act in a certain way, his order may already have achieved its goal. The vice president of the New England Cable and Telecommunications Association, Timothy Wilkerson, has said that his organizations’ members have agreed to maintain net neutrality. However, he did express frustration with the way various states were enacting their rules. In his statement, he said that his organization would prefer a “clear and predictable national standard” over “a disruptive patchwork of inconsistent state actions.”

One could argue that there was a “clear and predictable national standard” in place until the FCC voted to repeal net neutrality regulations last year. By stepping aside, the FCC may have paved the way for the various states to implement their own rules and regulations regarding net neutrality, creating the very situation that Wilkerson’s organization opposes.

Despite Wilkerson’s comments, it is possible that some members of the telecom industry might seek to challenge Scott’s order in the courts by arguing it conflicts with the FCC’s own rules regarding net neutrality. Ultimately, that would be an issue for the courts to decide, though Scott’s order does have two things going for it. The first is that it notes that “nothing in this order shall be construed to supersede any federal law.” Secondly, it only applies to state agencies, which likely falls within the scope of Vermont’s authority.

As previously mentioned, four other states have taken action to protect net neutrality. These states have all passed executive orders similar to Vermont’s. Additionally, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, along with attorneys general for 22 other states, have filed suit against the FCC.

On the national level, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has said he will force a vote to reinstate the 2015 regulations through the Congressional Review Act. The CRA gives Congress the power to overturn rules made by federal regulatory agencies, though it would require a majority in both houses of Congress.

For more information on net neutrality, check out our primer on the situation.

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Eric Brackett
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