More Than Half Of U.S. States Now Pushing Their Own Net Neutrality Rules

from the things-gonna-get-ugly dept

Large ISP lobbyists, the FCC and agency head Ajit Pai are going to be rather busy for the foreseeable future. In the wake of the agency’s extremely unpopular net neutrality repeal, consumer groups note that 26 states (27 including a new effort in Kansas) have now taken action to protect net neutrality themselves — with more efforts on the way. The efforts range from attempts to pass state-level net neutrality rules banning anti-competitive behavior, to executive orders modifying state procurement rules to prohibit ISPs that violate net neutrality from getting state money or securing state contracts.

Last week, Vermont became the fifth state to embrace the executive order route, approving new rules (pdf) that prohibit ISPs from securing state contracts if they engage in anti-competitive throttling, website blocking, or paid prioritization. In all instances, both the proposed state laws and executive orders provide ample leeway for the prioritization of essential services (like medical equipment) while allowing ISPs to engage in “reasonable network management.”

That said, ISP lobbyists tend to be pretty good at convincing lawmakers to water down what “reasonable” means before or after the fact, something we saw with both the 2010 and the 2015 FCC rules. Net neutrality rules are also only as good as the willingness to actually enforce them, which historically hasn’t been great. In other words, while these are well-intentioned efforts by many state leaders, it’s going to be important to hold state leaders’ feet to the fire on this issue, especially given the often comical influence ISPs have on state regulators and politicians.

Forseeing this state-level action, ISPs like Verizon and Comcast successfully lobbied the FCC to include language in its repeal banning states from enforcing net neutrality or protecting broadband subscriber privacy (in the wake of their other success killing privacy rules last year).

But the FCC’s authority on this front remains uncertain. Many of the state leaders, like Montana Governor Steve Bullock, believe the executive orders fall outside of FCC jurisdiction anyway:

“Through the order, the State of Montana acts as a consumer?not a regulator. Because there’s no mandate, and no new regulations, there’s certainly no federal preemption. Companies that don’t like Montana’s proposed contract terms don’t have to do business with the State.”

We’ve noted a few times the irony involved in Ajit Pai’s position on this subject. Pai is one of several ISP allies who have whined incessantly about the need to protect “state rights” when states are passing ISP-written protection laws intended to hamstring competition among telecom operators. Here you’ve got states actually trying to do right by consumers and you’ll notice this interest in states rights magically disappears like morning dew in the mid-day heat.

Keep in mind, in addition to doing battle with 27 states, FCC boss Ajit Pai is also facing two different GAO inquiries into his odd behavior during the repeal, as well as a new FCC Inspector General investigation into whether Pai’s too cozy with the companies he’s supposed to be regulating. He’s also facing a lawsuit by 22 State Attorneys General accusing him of ignoring the public interest in the repeal. That’s in addition to the numerous lawsuits being filed by consumer advocates, activists, and the competing companies who’ll be harmed by this blatant handout to Comcast and Verizon.

And while the rotating crop of dollar-per-holler “consultants,” think tankers, lobbyists and PR folks are already deriding the “chaos” and “uncertainty” created by states crafting their own rules, that’s again something these ISPs should have thought more deeply about before attacking consistent and arguably modest (by international standards) federal protections. They built this chaos, and shouldn’t be allowed to tap dance around that fact.

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Comments on “More Than Half Of U.S. States Now Pushing Their Own Net Neutrality Rules”

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33 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

SO? About half of US states once advocated and made laws holding people in chattel slavery!

Numbers don’t mean nothing.

This is "popular" only because the field is so vague that it’s easy for demagogues and re-writers to slant as if "net neutrality" is undoubtedly good — when actually there’s NO harm evident yet, just FUD.

"Companies that don’t like Montana’s proposed contract terms don’t have to do business with the State."

As I stated at least one of the many times you used this feeble basis for a piece. — I’m now FULL into advocating that ISPs should just cut off ALL state offices. Montana gov says that his state can’t object. Clearly states are A) using power of The People outside of law with "executive orders", and B) don’t have very much power, so easy take-down.

ISPs should call that bluff, not least because there’s NO HARM EVIDENT YET! So this is right time to put the kibosh on this trend, before any evidence can be shown, not that I think EVER can be.

Techdirt claims that "platforms" have Right to control access, but of course if any ISP would dare to take that stand, would howl like stepped-on puppies and claim a common law right to service.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: SO? About half of US states once advocated and made laws holding people in chattel slavery!

You keep on confusing the the shop with the means of contacting them, and what the ISPs are trying to do is to tell you which shops you can use via their services. If they did the same with phone services, you would be up in arms if they did not let you call your favorite fast food place.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: SO? About half of US states once advocated and made laws holding people in chattel slavery!

Actually, I’m on a “Friends and Family” plan where I pay less to call specific numbers than I do to call the others. This sounds an awful lot like zero rating.

I also have a fixed number of minutes on my phone each month before I have to pay extra; this sounds an awful lot like data caps.

I also have my bandwidth throttled depending on where I am, because my cell provider has been “strategic” in how they’ve upgraded cell site repeaters. This sounds a lot like the DSL “strategic” neglect the ISPs are doing.

Finally, I get hit with all sorts of fees when I go out of network, sort of similar to how ISPs have been meddling with backbone interconnects.

So about the only thing my phone company isn’t doing from the laundry list of bad things ISPs do is destination and service throttling. Unless you count the fact that they use compression so I can’t run a modem or fax machine over the connection.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: SO? About half of US states once advocated and made laws holding people in chattel slavery!

“Numbers don’t mean nothing.”

We know all about your adversarial relationship with facts and data.

“Techdirt claims that “platforms” have Right to control access, but of course if any ISP would dare to take that stand, would howl like stepped-on puppies and claim a common law right to service.”

No, they’d calmly and politely explain to you yet again the fundamental differences between platforms and utilities. Then you’d ignore everything and spout of ignorant crap in the next thread.

ShadowNinja (profile) says:

Re: SO? About half of US states once advocated and made laws holding people in chattel slavery!

SO? About half of US states once advocated and made laws holding people in chattel slavery!

That’s actually false. Over a third of the states became states AFTER the civil war when slavery was already illegal. Also, the north, which were the free states, had a lot more people living there then the south, hence ‘half’ the country did not believe in slavery being a good thing.

This is "popular" only because the field is so vague that it’s easy for demagogues and re-writers to slant as if "net neutrality" is undoubtedly good — when actually there’s NO harm evident yet, just FUD.

You should do some quick googling on the long list of actual harm by ISP’s over the last decade. Including Verizon and Comcast blackmailing Netflix into paying up ransoms to boost their speeds. Verizon was even caught red handed at throttling Netflix when someone used a VPN to watch Netflix, and the connection got MUCH faster. (For those less tech literate, VPN’s should ALWAYS slow down your connection, due to the additional hops data has to take to get to your computer. The fact that data came much faster on a VPN showed that the normal route Netflix data took was being throttled by Verizon, but not the alternate route the VPN was using).

I’m now FULL into advocating that ISPs should just cut off ALL state offices.

ISPs should call that bluff, not least because there’s NO HARM EVIDENT YET!

… You do realize that your idea to ‘call the bluff’ would only prove everyone’s point that ISP’s have a harmful monopoly that they’re harming the public with by openly abusing it?

That would be like shooting someone with a gun to prove that guns aren’t dangerous and can stop mass shootings.

Ryunosuke (profile) says:

Re: SO? About half of US states once advocated and made laws holding people in chattel slavery!

wow, how in the actual fuck can you equate net neutrality and free speech to SLAVERY? How the actual fuck can you make anything CLOSE to that rationalization? You sir, Should be in the Mental Olympics, because the mental gymnastics you must undertake is Gold Medal quality.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It did lack the Authority.
A federal agency can only regulate things at the “federal” level. If something does not cross a state line when doing business they have no authority.

But lets be honest here, government is going to shit upon any law that gets in its way. Heck, most people do not even know how to read basic English because their political dogma gets in the way. If you state certain facts, people get hella bent out of shape about it and that is the end of any meaningful conversation to be had about it.

The political divide is only going to get worse and the people whining about unity the most are the ones causing it.

Aaron Walkhouse (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: In these cases the global nature of the internet is irrelevant…

…as the BUSINESS TRANSACTIONS involved are between customer
and provider within that state. It is rarely, if ever, otherwise.

That a customer can then access resources worldwide doesn’t
erase the fact that the purchase and sale was between two
entities almost always in the same jurisdiction at that time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 In these cases the global nature of the internet is irrelevant…

Then explain why they are also able to regulate EMF device interference? That does not, has not, and will not cross state lines, nor does it have anything to do really with business transactions.

I mean I suppose if you had your device 10 feet from the state line and someone else had their equipment 10 feet on the other side of the state line and were using it to make transactions with each other, then yeah, it crosses state lines. But seriously, how does my landline wireless phone handset interfering with TV fall under “crossing state lines”?

They have the power to regulate more than just stuff that crosses state lines, otherwise they would be useless as an agency.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 In these cases the global nature of the internet is irrelevant…

“Then explain why they are also able to regulate EMF device interference?”

Because devices exist that have far longer ranges than the ones you’re thinking of in your examples? Because it makes a hell of a lot of sense for there to be one national standard rather than 50 different standards, where an one moving from one state to another risks introducing interference from devices that are regulated in a totally different set of frequencies?

It’s telling that you can only conceive of one person being in a single state with a non-portable device and never moving, but reality states that lots of people and devices cross state lines on a regular basis.

“But seriously, how does my landline wireless phone handset interfering with TV fall under “crossing state lines”?”

Did you buy the phone handset in your state? Was it manufactured there to their standards? Have you moved state since you bought the phone?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 In these cases the global nature of the internet is irrelevant…

I think you misunderstood my point. I’m not disagreeing with you, I’m disagreeing with Aaron Wheeler and blue.

Their arguments are predicated on the assumption that for the FCC to regulate something, it has to, in some way shape or form, involve a business transaction across state lines.

I will admit that my examples were perhaps not the best and not worded very well but my point was that there are plenty of devices that don’t involve transactions and whose operation of do not cross state lines but that they seem to be fine with the FCC regulating those devices. Therefore they disprove their own arguments. Contrast that to an ISP whose networks span multiple states and connecting in one state means you are automatically connected in every other state they operate in as well as the internet as a whole.

I could buy a device manufactured in my state and not move to another state and by their logic, that should not be able to be regulated by the FCC. (Yes, I understand that I could move to another state and take it with me, thereby crossing state lines, but it is possible for such devices to never cross state lines, be it however unlikely)

Essentially I am attempting to point out their hypocrisy that regulating things at the federal level must conform to their narrow, incorrect, view of the law. Their belief is it’s fine for the FCC to regulate a device that may never cross a state boundary but it’s not ok for the FCC to regulate an ISP that, by definition, has to interconnect with other networks across state boundaries on a daily basis.

Jeffrey Nonken (profile) says:

“And while the rotating crop of dollar-per-holler “consultants,” think tankers, lobbyists and PR folks are already deriding the “chaos” and “uncertainty” created by states crafting their own rules…”

Of course, what a mess. It’s not like large ISPs have to deal with different rules in different places up until now. Code and building practices being synchronized all across the U.S., and all.

It’s not like each state has its own rules for wiring buildings, nor that it’s different for residential, commercial and industrial. Nor different rules for outdoor wiring. It’s not as though each town, borough, village, township, city, or other geographical political entity has its own laws and exceptions written to deal with local circumstances!

There’s some poor guy in an office somewhere who has to deal with these rules. He spends most of his time sleeping and throwing paper airplanes, because these rules are nation-wide and unchanging. He has nothing to do.

I can understand why the big ISPs would object to different states making their own rules — they are totally unused to having to alter their practices as they cross political boundaries. It would be SO UNFAIR!

BP2014 (profile) says:

VT Gov's net neutrality order has a waiver

FWIW the Vermont Gov’s net neutrality order has the following waiver: "Waivers to these Procedures may be granted by the Secretary only upon receipt of a written justification from a State Agency and a finding by the Secretary [that] a waiver would serve a legitimate and significant interest of the State,” the order says. more here: Link

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