Dems move to reinstate net neutrality nationwide, allow states to keep their own open internet laws

Sen. Maria Cantwell discusses net neutrality at a 2017 town hall in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Monica Nickelsburg)

Congressional lawmakers introduced a bill Wednesday that would re-instate open internet protections, known as net neutrality, nationwide and allow states to continue enforcing their own laws.

The two-page “Save the Internet Act” would undo the Federal Communications Commission’s 2017 vote to repeal net neutrality, a policy that required internet providers to treat all traffic the same, without speeding or slowing service to some sites over others.

Net neutrality became the rules of the online road in 2015 under President Barack Obama’s FCC. In December 2017, President Donald Trump’s FCC repealed the policy amid protests from open internet advocates.

The bill introduced Wednesday by Congressional Democrats seeks to reverse that decision and would not allow the FCC to “issue a new rule that is substantially the same.”

The legislation would not preempt state net neutrality laws, which are becoming more common in the wake of the FCC repeal. Washington state was the first in the nation to pass its own net neutrality law, followed by California.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, of Washington, is one of the lawmakers leading the net neutrality charge. At a press conference Wednesday, she noted that five states have passed net neutrality laws and 30 more are considering similar legislation.

“It’s accurate to say the debate about an open internet is not going away,” Cantwell said. “In fact, it just got a few more logs thrown on the fire.”

Although several states have passed net neutrality protections, it’s unlikely that a federal law will be enacted. The bill introduced Wednesday would need to clear the Republican-held Senate and receive sign-off from Trump before becoming law. But Democrats have pledged to continue fighting the uphill battle.

“We stand for an innovation economy that represents more than $1 billion already and how important it is for them not to be throttled back by somebody who gets to make arbitrary decisions about access to broadband,” Cantwell said.

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