With net neutrality dead and gone, internet service providers now have unprecedented power to control the online experience. Of course, ISPs are happy about it, but not every state is willing to leave their citizens vulnerable to paid prioritization, watchdog surfing, blocking, and other limitations.
In December, the Republican-led FCC repealed net neutrality protections that were first set up under the Obama Administration. The repeal did away with rules that inhibited ISPs from slowing down access or prioritizing their own content, and quickly became a point of contention with consumer advocacy groups and progressive lawmakers. As responses from state and local governments become more diversified, the National Regulatory Research Institute (NRRI) will now track legislative action.
The NRRI has developed two maps that track which states have passed laws, executive orders, or other resolutions in response to the repeal. NRRI is the research branch of the regulatory non-profit NARUC, a national association that represents state public service commissioners who regulate utility services. These maps not only show which regulatory approaches individual states will use to protect internet freedom but reveal which states have gone so far as to sue the FCC.
The latest updates show that 36 states have proposed or passed resolutions since the new rules were adopted. Six of those states — Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont — have issued executive orders that require ISPs to contract with the state government to confirm that they will meet the 2017 net neutrality requirements.
Legislation hasn’t been the only strategy employed by states. Twenty-two State Attorneys General are also suing the FCC to overturn the Restoring Internet Freedom Order in the courts. The latest map from NRRI reveals that California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington, and the District of Columbia are pursuing the restoration of 2015 net neutrality rules through legal action.
More states are expected to join the fight against the FCC, whether through lawsuits or through state legislation. Where states are slow to challenge the federal agency, cities have already mobilized. NRRI has listed the mayors of 122 cities that have also pledged to require ISP entities to adhere to net neutrality rules in order to do business within their municipalities.
Major ISPs such as Verizon and Comcast have been vocal advocates of fair internet practices and promise to not abuse their newfound power, but the protective measures that once ensured fair ISP behavior are gone. Despite the federal government’s decision, state and local governments are now working to hold these companies accountable within their own jurisdictions.