Massachusetts Just The Latest State To Embrace Net Neutrality

from the boxing-in-bullies dept

In the wake of the FCC's historically unpopular decision to gut net neutrality, more than half of the states in the nation are now exploring their own, state-level net neutrality rules. In some instances (Montana) states are signing executive orders that ban state agencies from doing business with ISPs that behave anti-competitively. Elsewhere (Oregon and Washington) states are passing new laws that largely mirror the FCC's discarded 2015 rules, and in some instances (California) are a bit tougher than the FCC on things like usage caps or "zero rating."

This week, Massachusetts began finalizing approval of S2610, which initially proposed doing many of the things other such bills do (banning ISP blocking, throttling, or crippling of competitor services and websites). But the bill has since been notably reworked to instead create a state-wide registry that ranks ISPs based on how terrible their service, pricing, privacy and other behaviors are:

"There shall be an internet service provider registry to make broadband internet access service quality and network management practices readily available to customers in the commonwealth. The department shall compile for the registry information disclosed by internet service providers in the commonwealth pursuant to this section and from the verification tests conducted pursuant to this section. The department shall organize the registry in a format that is conducive to review and comparison by customers and prospective customers of internet service. The registry shall be available on the department’s website and shall include net neutrality and consumer privacy grades under subsection (f) in comparison chart for fixed line internet service providers and 1 comparison chart for wireless internet service providers. The department shall provide the information in the registry upon request."

ISPs that behave would be able to display a Massachusetts seal of approval to, purportedly, clearly advertise that they're not terrible and anti-competitive. Efforts to actually include language preventing things like the blocking and throttling of competitors were supposed to be added via amendment, but were thwarted at the behest of telecom lobbying organizations according to regional news outlets. In conversations with state lawmakers, I've also been told that leaders wanted to tightly restrict the language in the bill to avoid ISP lawsuits, since the FCC's "Restoring Internet Freedom" repeal ironically tries to ban states from protecting consumers (you know, state rights and all that).

Since large ISPs convinced the Trump FCC to neuter not only FCC authority but many of the transparency requirements, having a registry that clearly illustrates what kind of connection you're buying isn't a terrible idea. That said, without any hard restrictions on bad behavior, relying solely on naming and shaming bad policy actors can only go so far. A lack of competition means that users can't switch ISPs anyway, so while transparency is great and all, it alone isn't going to force monopoly last mile broadband providers to magically behave.

As is usually the case, local broadband and TV providers tried to claim that rules actually preventing them from being anti-competitive bullies would hurt jobs, puppies, and innovation:

"Our members support and adhere to the principles of net neutrality every day while employing thousands of Massachusetts residents and investing over a billion dollars annually in the Commonwealth’s economy,” Tim Wilkerson, vice president of the New England Cable & Telecommunications Association, said. “The measure being considered in the Massachusetts Senate will do little to protect consumers while hurting innovation and economic growth."

Even if these claims could be taken seriously, perhaps that's something ISPs should have considered before they lobbied to dismantle popular and relatively modest (by international standards) net neutrality protections on the federal level. ISPs have promised to sue states that try and protect consumers in the wake of federal apathy, but they've yet to actually do so -- in part because they're nervous about looming legal challenges of the FCC repeal.

Filed Under: ajit pai, fcc, massachusetts, net neutrality


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jul 2018 @ 4:20pm

    I can never understand the logic behind statements from ISPs like this.

    "Our members support and adhere to the principles of net neutrality every day while employing thousands of Massachusetts residents and investing over a billion dollars annually in the Commonwealth’s economy,” Tim Wilkerson, vice president of the New England Cable & Telecommunications Association, said. “The measure being considered in the Massachusetts Senate will do little to protect consumers while hurting innovation and economic growth."

    If the company already adheres to NN like they claim, then they wouldn't need to make any changes to comply.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Iggy, 25 Jul 2018 @ 4:37pm

    An ISP ranking using information provided by the ISP's themselves instead of independent measurements?
    In a country where industries control state legislatures?
    With little competition anyway?

    Sounds like the FCC's $300,000,000 broadband availability map all over again.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jul 2018 @ 7:34pm

    Re: Hey, comment. Been sitting there alone FOUR hours now...

    It's sad to see you sit in this relic from last century.

    Maybe you ought to look for another site, one not infested by aged pirates whining about vague "net neutrality" and about the "ownership" that people have in their creation because made them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jul 2018 @ 8:54pm

    Re: Re:

    For someone so angry and vehemently against corporations you seem to enjoy leaping to their defense at every possible opportunity. Now why is that, blue boy?

    Maybe it's high time you came out of the closet...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jul 2018 @ 10:21pm

    Re

    Better than a failed musician who haunts a dead site he loathes for over a decade...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Jul 2018 @ 3:54am

    Re: Re: Hey, comment. Been sitting there alone FOUR hours now...

    Wild accusations and unsupported claims do not make for a good argument. Perhaps you are simply making shit up?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Ninja (profile), 26 Jul 2018 @ 6:47am

    Re: Re: Hey, comment. Been sitting there alone FOUR hours now...

    Well, please enlighten us then. If they already adhere to NN principles (and they are pretty clear) then why would enshrining NN into law somewhat "hurt" innovation?

    If you don't mind I'll leave this straw man here because I don't want to wait that much for your answer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    ShadowNinja (profile), 26 Jul 2018 @ 10:05am

    Re: Re: Hey, comment. Been sitting there alone FOUR hours now...

    Posted without any proof of said claims.

    Maybe because even you know you'll be torn to shreds if you do for linking to easily debunked stuff.

    If you've really been reading techdirt off and on over the years, you'll have seen many stories about the ISP's claims of how bad net neutrality is getting debunked (such as their claims that it hurt ISP infrastructure investment, despite the lack of any spending difference before Wheeler's rule change and after it, and despite the ISP's admitting to their shareholders that it's all bunk).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 26 Jul 2018 @ 6:11pm

    Where's that nano-violin when you need it?

    “The measure being considered in the Massachusetts Senate will do little to protect consumers while hurting innovation and economic growth."

    I actually do believe that it will hinder some economic growth, but given said growth would be on the ISPs' part, thanks to abusing their positions to rip off the people of the state you'll excuse me if I fail to find this a problem.

    As for hurting 'innovation', yeah, we've seen what counts of 'innovation' to a good number of ISPs, and far too often it involves 'how can we get the most money from the public for the least amount of work on our part?', and that sort of 'innovation' deserves to not just be 'hurt' but flat out put down.

    If 'here are specific rules of how you cannot screw over your customers' is considered a hindrance to 'innovation and economic growth' then that says a lot regarding what that 'innovation' involved and who exactly was going to benefit from that 'economic growth'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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