It should not be surprising that arguably the biggest mistake in Internet policy history is going to invoke a vast political response. Since the FCC repealed federal Open Internet Order in December, many states have attempted to fill the void. With a new bill that reinstates net neutrality protections, Oregon is the latest state to step up.
Oregon’s Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson recently announced her intention to fight to restore much of what the FCC repealed last December under its so-called “Restoring Internet Freedom Order.” Her legislation, H.B. 4155, responds to the FCC’s decision by requiring that any ISP that receives funds from the state to adhere to net neutrality principles—not blocking or throttling content or prioritizing its own content over that of competitors, for example.
If you’re an Oregonian, tell your state representative to act to restore net neutrality.
Oregon is following in what is clearly a trend of state legislatures and executives acting to protect their citizens’ digital rights where the federal government has abdicated responsibility. To date, 17 states have introduced network neutrality legislation and four Governors have issued Executive Orders (Montana, New York, New Jersey, and Hawaii).
The national response to the FCC’s decision to abandon its role as the consumer protection agency overseeing cable and telephone companies is to be expected. It is wildly unpopular with voters of all political leanings; 83% of voters overall including 3 out of 4 Republican voters opposed the FCC decision. Yet despite millions of Americans submitting comments to the FCC to oppose the decision, they were promptly ignored in favor of the interests of AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast. Where else should this vast swath of the American public go if not their state and local representation?
And while both Verizon and their association, the CTIA, made last minute requests to the FCC to try to prevent state privacy and network neutrality laws, they are not going to be successful. Their problem is the plan to eviscerate the law that empowers the FCC also disables the agency’s ability to block state laws. In other words, they cannot have it both ways.
While the FCC's order did contain a lot of words about how states cannot pass their own network neutrality laws, it did so without citing any specific legal authority. We remain skeptical that the FCC itself has that power. And while states still have to navigate the Commerce Clause, EFF has provided guidance on how to do that.
Notably, states and local government and in particular governors have caught onto the obvious weakness in the FCC’s authority and have acted. EFF will continue working to support the states in their effort to protect a free and open Internet until we are able to fully restore the protections we once had at the federal level.