Photo by Nicole Jennings

Photo by Nicole Jennings

State legislators combat federal ruling on net neutrality

One Senate bill would prohibit internet service providers from exercising “deceptive” tactics and impairing or blocking legal web content.

Democrats in the state Senate are pushing back against the Federal Communications Commission through a number of bills designed to protect net neutrality in Washington.

In April 2015, the FCC established new rules that reclassified broadband services as telecommunications, which made the internet something of a “common” good, similar to telephone services. This barred internet service providers from discriminating against certain forms of content, such as those that might compete with a company’s own.

In December the FCC voted to repeal the Obama-era rules and essentially brought an end to net neutrality in the United States, prompting criticism from public officials, content-streaming giants like Netflix and the FCC commissioners who voted against the repeal.

Within hours of the FCC’s decision, Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit against the agency, along with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The two would later be joined by counterparts in eight other states and the District of Columbia.

Now, two weeks into the 2018 legislative session, state Democrats have made it clear that they don’t intend to stand down regarding the FCC’s decision.

“One of the most crucial foundations of our democracy is free speech, and in the modern age that has to include the principle of equal and unfettered access to the internet,” Gov. Jay Inslee said at a legislative preview event Jan. 4. “This is yet one more example where we have to seize our own destiny, protect our own people, when there is a failure to do so in Washington, D.C.”

One of the more outspoken proponents of net neutrality is Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, who recently introduced Senate Bill 6423, which would prohibit internet service providers from exercising “deceptive” tactics and impairing or blocking legal web content.

“We’re in a situation now with net neutrality where businesses would be able to throttle up or throttle down the internet in ways that would affect everybody,” Ranker said. “A vast, vast supermajority of Washingtonians do not want these things unregulated.”

While FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to repeal net neutrality prohibits states from creating their own laws on the topic, Ranker said the agency has been “ambiguous” on these rules, and the senator said net neutrality bills were much more than symbolic and could bring real change to Washington.

A less aggressive approach came from Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, who introduced a bill which would simply bring transparency to local internet service.

Senate Bill 6446 would require that providers publicly disclose network management practices and commercial terms of broadband internet services. The disclosure would have to be “timely” and “sufficient” to afford consumers the ability to make informed decisions when selecting a provider.

SB 6446 received a public hearing on Thursday, Jan. 18 in the Senate Energy, Environment & Technology Committee, where Carlyle serves as chair. Carlyle said at the hearing that he was motivated by public interest in the issue when drafting the bill.

Several members of the broadband industry came to oppose the bill, which Carlyle said he expected and welcomed.

CEO Michael Schutzler of the Washington Tech Industry Association said the bill was too vague and would be difficult to enforce.

“There’s no standard for what accurate or ‘sufficient’ is, nor is it reasonable for anyone or some forced combination of ISPs to be responsible for educating all consumers,” Schutzler said. “This reasonable language is so wide it’s also impossible to implement.”

Another argument made by Schutzler and others regarded the federal nature of the net neutrality issue. Bob Bass, president of AT&T in Alaska, Washington and Hawaii, said that state borders make broadband legislation complicated for consumers traveling between states.

“The internet doesn’t stop at a state border,” Bass said. “We believe that this needs to happen at a federal level so that we can have consistency.”

But Ranker said that federal legislators have been unable or unwilling to do anything about net neutrality, and that it falls on the states to craft legislation on the issue.

“What we need is transparency in this situation,” Ranker said. “The states must act if we are going to protect our citizens.”

This report was produced by the Olympia bureau of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@bellevuereporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.bellevuereporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Northwest

File photo/Sound Publishing
Ban on single-use plastic bags in WA begins Oct. 1

Shoppers will have the choice to pay for a reusable plastic or recycled paper bag.

Courtesy Photo, Port of Seattle
Port of Seattle to require vaccinations for employees

2,200 workers must be vaccinated by Nov. 15

Garbage at the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill in Maple Valley. FILE PHOTO
Why burning our trash may not be as bad as it sounds

Understanding waste-to-energy’s financial and environmental impact in King County.

People hold up signs in protest of Gov. Jay Inslee’s latest proclamations during a Rally for Medical Freedom on Aug. 25 in Buckley. Photo by Alex Bruell/Sound Publishing
State workers get incentive to comply with vaccine mandate

An agreement between the state and their union also provides for some leeway in meeting the deadline.

This is a screenshot that shows the pursuit of a stolen vehicle Sept. 1 on Interstate 5 in King County.
VIDEO: Auburn police let suspected vehicle thief go, citing new laws

State laws passed earlier this spring require police to have probable cause to engage in a pursuit.

Juanita High School student Ria Mahon. Courtesy photo
Student brings awareness to menstrual health among Puget Sound’s homeless

When Ria Mohan, a junior of Juanita High School in Kirkland, had… Continue reading

Matt Axe, the Wildfire and Forest Resiliency Coordinator with the King Conservation District, speaks to homeowner Anita Kissee-Wilder about fire reduction strategies at her home in North Bend on Aug. 24. Photo by Conor Wilson/Valley Record.
King County braces for more wildfires in rural areas

Firefighters have already responded to a number of large fires.

t
New data dashboard tracks COVID-19 risk for unvaccinated, vaccinated people

Information compiled by Public Health – Seattle & King County

This 2019 security footage at the Cenex gas station in Black Diamond shows Anthony Chilcott on his phone before entering, and driving off with, Carl Sanders’ Ford Raptor and Monkey, his poodle, in the front seat. Courtesy photo
Oversight office releases scathing report on King County Sheriff’s Office

Report analyzes 2019 killing of Anthony Chilcott by deputies.

Close-up hand using phone in night time on street. File photo
King County Council steps closer to establishing hate crime hotline

The program is aimed at reducing the number of unreported hate crimes.

A Link light rail train travels underneath the University of Washington during testing to open the new line to Northgate. COURTESY PHOTO, Sound Transit
Northgate Link light rail testing moves into final stages

Three new north Seattle stations opening Oct. 2