States push back after net neutrality repeal

Lawmakers in at least six states, including California and New York, have introduced bills in recent weeks that would forbid internet providers to block or slow down sites or online services. Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee also has weighed in.

WASHINGTON — A new front is opening in the battle to restore net-neutrality rules: state legislatures.

Lawmakers in at least six states, including California and New York, have introduced bills in recent weeks that would forbid internet providers to block or slow down sites or online services. Legislators in several other states, including North Carolina and Illinois, are weighing similar action. Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee has also weighed in.

They are responding to the Federal Communications Commission’s vote last month to end regulations that barred internet service providers from creating slow and fast lanes for different sites and services. The new policy will go into effect in the coming weeks.

By passing their own law, the state lawmakers say, they would ensure that consumers would find the content of the choice, maintain a diversity of voices online and protect businesses from having to pay fees to reach users. And they might even have an effect beyond their states. California’s strict auto-emissions standards, for example, have been followed by a dozen other states, giving California major sway over the auto industry.

“There tends to be a follow-on effect, particularly when something happens in a big state like California,” said Harold Feld, a senior vice president at a nonprofit consumer group, Public Knowledge, that supports net-neutrality efforts by the states.

Bills have also been introduced in Massachusetts, Nebraska, Rhode Island and Washington. The issue has also attracted some support in governor’s mansions. In Washington state, for example, Inslee reiterated his support for a state law in a speech this week.

“When Washington, D.C., takes away that protection, we must protect net neutrality for our people, for our businesses and for the virtues of free speech,” said Inslee, a Democrat.

But the bills are still in the early stages and could face roadblocks. Many similar efforts by states to restore broadband privacy rules that Congress repealed last year have stalled or been scrapped.

And any such state law could be challenged in courts. The Federal Communications Commission’s new order, which rolled back rules passed in 2015, blocks…

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