California, Washington, NY take steps after net neutrality vote – CNET

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Several states, including California, Washington and New York plan fight back against the FCC’s net neutrality repeal. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Federal Communications Commission may have voted to roll back net neutrality rules, but some state lawmakers and attorneys general say they’re going to fight to ensure online traffic is treated equally.

Politicians from California, Washington and New York said Thursday they will use a mix of legislative and legal moves to fight the FCC’s vote, which happened Thursday.

California state senator Scott Wiener said shortly after the vote that he’ll seek legislation requiring net neutrality in the state. The Democrat from San Francisco said in a post on Medium he plans formally introduce a bill early next year.  

“California can regulate business practices to require net neutrality, condition state contracts on adhering to net neutrality, and require net neutrality as part of cable franchise agreements, as a condition to using the public right-of-way for internet infrastructure, and in broadband packages,” he said. 

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Meanwhile, Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Thursday he’s suing over the net neutrality repeal, citing the federal government violated the Administrative Procedure Act.

“Allowing internet service providers to discriminate based on content undermines a free and open internet. Today’s action will seriously harm consumers, innovation and small businesses,” he said. 

But instituting their own net neutrality rules may not be so easy. As part of the repeal of the 2015 rules, the FCC reclassified broadband as an “interstate information service.” This not only strips the FCC of its ability to regulate broadband as a utility, but Republicans on the commission also claim it means that states can’t regulate the service either.

“The order makes plain that broadband will be subject to a uniform, national framework that promotes investment and innovation,” Republican Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said in his statement before the FCC’s vote. “Broadband service is not confined to state boundaries and should not be constrained by a patchwork of state and local regulations.”

As a result, he said states are pre-empted from passing their own laws to try to preserve net neutrality.

“Although the order does acknowledge an extremely limited state role in enforcing their traditional police powers, state actions that go beyond this realm will be subject to scrutiny and challenge,” he said. “The order makes clear that any requirements akin to common carrier regulation are barred.”

He went on to say that he specifically requested that states also can’t adopt their own transparency requirements and he said that states are barred from legislating broadband privacy protections.

“The purpose of this order is to restore a light-touch approach through deregulation,” he said. “Therefore, any action to increase regulatory burdens on broadband providers would run directly counter to our efforts.”

And he promised that if states attempt to bypass the FCC in its efforts that the agency will be vigilant in shutting them down.

That doesn’t mean they won’t try. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said his office plans to file a lawsuit, arguind the FCC gave telecom companies an early Christmas present by giving internet service providers yet another way to put corporate profits over consumers.

“Today’s rollback will give ISPs new ways to control what we see, what we do, and what we say online,” he said in a statement. “That’s a threat to the free exchange of ideas that’s made the Internet a valuable asset in our democratic process.”

The FCC narrowly voted to get rid of the regulations which guaranteed traffic on the internet was treated equally, halting broadband and wireless providers from blocking or slowing online content. The FCC also voted to eliminate the legal foundation granting the agency oversight over internet service providers. 

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said Thursday that repealing net neutrality “is not going to end the internet as we know it. It is not going to kill democracy.”

Nonprofit organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Media Alliance and the Free Press have also threatened to sue the FCC over the move.

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