After FCC Chairman Ajit Pai spent the past year dismantling Obama-era rules on net neutrality, a group of lawmakers from liberal-leaning states plan to spend the next year building them back up. FCC rules include language forbidding states from doing this, but lawmakers in New York and California have another idea; they want to create their own rules.
According to a report in Bloomberg, New York Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy introduced a bill that would make it mandatory for internet providers to adhere to the principles of net neutrality as a requirement for landing state contracts. This would mean they couldn’t block or slow down certain web traffic, and couldn’t offer faster speeds to companies who pay them directly.
Fahy further noted that the restrictions on contractors would apply even if they weren’t in New York. “The feds have, we think, walked away from a free and open internet. We’re using a side door — I don’t want to say a back door,” she said. “The reason we want to do this legislatively is because we know we can move faster than a court case.”
Fahy admitted that the approach could break the limits set by the FCC on states attempting to regulate interstate commerce, but she’s willing to try.
Even supporters of state legislation on net neutrality think this may go too far. California State Senator Scott Wiener introduced a bill this week that would only apply to behavior within the state, saying any other approach would be too vulnerable to legal challenge.
“We’re expecting that there will be litigation,” Wiener acknowledged. But California law often has the upper hand in cases like this.
“California has a long and questionable history of passing laws and regulations that end up applying to the whole country, because companies don’t want to or can’t change their products to sell them just in California,” observed Geoffrey Manne, executive director of the International Center for Law & Economics, a research group.