Net Neutrality Now State vs Federal, but Will it Last?

John Lister's picture

Washington State has passed a law enforcing net neutrality. It could prompt a legal battle over state versus federal rulemaking power.

The state law, which takes effect in June, is based on the net neutrality principle that all Internet data (except for illegal content) should be treated equally. The new law bans three specific behaviors by Internet providers who offer service in Washington state, namely: blocking users from accessing any legal service, content or application; slowing down transfer speeds for specific types of content; and giving favorable treatment to particular data in return for payment.

The state law will take effect just a few weeks after a change in the national policy followed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which decided in December to ditch rules forcing Internet providers to follow net neutrality. Under the new policy, Internet providers can favor or penalize specific data as long as they publicly say they will do so.

Wider Political Battles

The debate over net neutrality is caught up in two wider political battles. One is whether net neutrality is needed to allow the Internet to reach its full potential and give smaller sites a fair chance of competing. For example: should net neutrality be left to the market, with Internet customers deciding whether or not they want to use providers who follow the principle?

The other is who has the power to make such rules. The FCC vote in December also changed the legal status of broadband provision, effectively meaning future commissioners would have a harder time reinstating rules.

States Take Differing Approaches

Washington State's new laws will provoke a further legal battle. The FCC vote specifically barred states from passing laws that contradicted the national policy. That means there's a good shot Internet providers will challenge the state law. (Source:

Washington is the first state to pass a law that affects all Internet providers who serve customers in the state. Several other states have or are in the process of bringing in rules that mean government agencies can only use Internet providers who follow net neutrality. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Should net neutrality be enforced at all? If so, is it better to be covered by government agency rules or through legislation by Congress? Should the matter be decided nationally or on a state-by-state basis?

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Chief's picture

The poorly named net neutrality rule is all about control. It is all about who dictates what to the end user: the ISP or Big Brother.

Let the buyer decide.

Unfortunately, some areas are regulated monopolies which in my opinion need to be ended as the local governments in exchange for a fat kick-back only allow one ISP.

My $0.02.

Stuart Berg's picture

This is the best demonstration of why we NEED net neutrality:

David's picture

"should net neutrality be left to the market, with Internet customers deciding whether or not they want to use providers who follow the principle?"

What comsumers have a legitimate choice in ISP? I have cable, and there is only one provider that I could have chosen from. Satellite is not an option. DSL is not an option. Cellular is not an option.

So, if my ISP decides to play games, their customers are screwed.

russoule's picture

I know it is aggravating that there is only a single ISP available to you, but the truth is that in many ways that applies to different services and venues as well. How many phone providers (land-line) do you have? How many Big-Box Warehouse stores are there in your area? How many neurologists practice near you? What about Orthopedists? Attorneys? Tax Consultants? Plumbers(licensed)? Carpenters? Architects?

The truth is that in many areas of the country there is only a single provider of services and/or products desired by the residents. Should the government come in and determine how much those sellers should be allowed to sell their services/products for? Should the Feds tell me that my fees for tax preparation can not be based on time spent but must be based on forms filled in?

The ISP has business expenses to pay for and is the one entity that knows HOW to generate income to pay for them. Net Neutrality would impose restrictions on that capability. Net Neutrality cannot be imposed on Comcast but not BLuebell County Cable. And since it is patently unfair to force Bluebell County Cable to sell its services for the same price to everyone, the policy of equal treatment would also prevent the government from forcing Comcast to so.

guitardogg's picture

The same faction that is supporting the end of net neutrality has a lot of overlap with those who believe strongly in states rights. Hypocrites! I'd be all for the "let the buyer decide" if most of the ISP's weren't monopolies, at least in their market. Just another one of things being done to boost profits at our expense.