States Rush To Protect Net Neutrality On Heels Of Court Ruling

from the round-and-round-we-go dept

Despite the obvious fraud and false data used to prop up the move, a court recently backed much of the Ajit Pai's repeal of net neutrality. But it wasn't all champagne and roses for Ajit Pai and his friends in the telecom sector. The court also shot down the FCC's attempt to ban states from protecting net neutrality themselves, pointing out that when the FCC obliterated its Title II authority over broadband providers (at lobbyist behest) it also eliminated any potential right to tell states what they can or can't do.

As such, states are rolling forward with exploring new rules and finally enforcing existing ones. More than two dozen states have examined some form of net neutrality protections in the wake of the repeal. Most notable are California and Washington State. California has been sued by the DOJ (not coincidentally run by former Verizon lawyer Bill Barr) for trying to protect consumers, an effort complicated by this court ruling. Washington wasn't sued, and is moving full speed ahead when it comes to implementing the rules:

"Broadband users in Washington State can file net neutrality complaints against ISPs using this general consumer complaint form, a spokesperson for Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson told Ars. The AG's office said it wouldn't comment on whether there are any pending net neutrality investigations. The text of the Washington law is available on the state's website here. Violations of the law are punishable under Washington's Consumer Protection Act."

We've noted a few times how folks crowing about how net neutrality must not have mattered because the internet didn't explode are only advertising their own ignorance. For one, the repeal did much more than just kill net neutrality. It effectively gutted the FCC's authority over telecom giants, shoveling any remaining responsibility to an FTC that lacks the authority or resources to stand up to giants like AT&T and Comcast (that was the entire point of the gambit).

As such, crowing that the internet didn't implode ignores how a void in federal oversight will make a wide variety of non-net-neutrality related issues (high prices, sneaky fees, misleading coverage maps, anti-competitive behavior) worse. Some otherwise bright folks remain under the false impression that eliminating telecom oversight magically results in connectivity Utopia. But when the FCC abdicates its authority over natural monopolies like Comcast and AT&T, existing problems simply get worse. There are decades of data (and endless customer satisfaction surveys) making this point.

Most ISPs (with some notable exceptions) have been hesitant to start screwing users and competitors for fear of running afoul of state laws. And as more states (like Minnesota) contemplate tougher rules to fill the void, that's going to continue. Industry lobbyists love to complain about the "fractured regulatory obligations" they now face, but that was a product of their own creation when they decided to spend millions to kill fairly modest (by international standards) consumer protections. The telecom industry made this mess, and now it gets to stew in it until either Congress or the FCC restores federal guidelines.

That's why, just as we're seeing on the privacy front, the big industry push moving forward will be to express phony support for a federal net neutrality law their lawyers will write. A law they pretend is a "solution" to the problem but contains so many loopholes as to be effectively worthless. Its only real purpose? To pre-empt tougher federal or state guidelines.

Filed Under: california, fcc, net neutrality, oversight, states, washington

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