Nebraska The First 'Red' State To Craft Its Own Net Neutrality Law

from the the-people-have-spoken dept

So we've noted repeatedly how the attack on net neutrality is just one small part of a much larger, dumber plan by major ISPs to neuter nearly all federal and state oversight. A plan that involves gutting all meaningful FCC authority over broadband ISPs, then shoveling any remaining authority to the FTC. An FTC (surprise surprise) the broadband industry is currently in court arguing has no authority over broadband providers. Ajit Pai's FCC (at Verizon and Comcast lobbyists' request) also included provisions pre-empting states from trying to protect consumer privacy or net neutrality.

So far individual states aren't listening. New York, Washington, Minnesota, Massachusetts and California are all pushing their own net neutrality rules. And since the FCC's net neutrality repeal prohibits states from passing such laws, many of these states are creatively eyeing provisions that require ISPs adhere to net neutrality if they want to win government contracts, or if they want to keep getting taxpayer subsidies for those fiber networks they always tend to leave half built anyway.

ISP lobbyists have already begun trying to argue that these individual state efforts create a discordant patchwork of regulations that may be difficult to adhere to. But that's the sort of thing said lobbyists should have thought about before rushing mindlessly to destroy federal net neutrality rules. Rules that were actually among the more modest of any of the developed nations that have passed such protections (see The Netherlands, India, Japan, Canada, Germany).

Nebraska has now added itself to the list of states stepping up to the plate in the wake of federal consumer apathy. State Senator Adam Morfeld has introduced LB 856 (pdf), which would restore the federal net neutrality rules on the state level, and prevent ISPs from "limiting or restricting access to web sites, applications, or content." Speaking to his hometown newspaper, Morfield expressed surprise at the volume of bipartisan feedback he received in the wake of the FCC's decision:

"For me, this is an economic development and consumer protection bill,” Morfeld said. “The internet drives the economy now and it’s critical people have open and fair access to the internet. I knew I was passionate about it, but I was shocked at the support I received from Republicans, from Democrats and Libertarians," he said.

He shouldn't be surprised. Survey after survey (including some from the industry itself) show that net neutrality has broad, bipartisan support among consumers. One recent poll indicated that 83% of Americans opposed the FCC's handout to the telecom sector. The fact that the FCC ignored this support in its rush to repeal the rules will be playing a starring role in the looming lawsuits awaiting the agency later this year.

Whether Nebraska's law will be preempted by FCC authority is something else the courts will have to hash out, especially since the FCC has had its wrist slapped for overreach in the past when it has tried to preempt state authority on matters of broadband. ISP lobbyists (and the countless think tankers, lobbyists, consultants and academics paid to love them) express breathless adoration of "states rights" when states are criticized for passing anti-competitive state laws, but when those same states actually try to protect consumers and small businesses, you'll notice that this adoration of states rights magically disappears.

Filed Under: fcc, nebraska, net neutrality, states rights


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  1. icon
    ShadowNinja (profile), 11 Jan 2018 @ 7:35am

    Nebraska's legislature is 'non-partisan' so that might also have something to do with this.

    By 'non-partisan' I mean you can't run as a member of a political party. Everyone is listed as unaffiliated on the ballot.

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