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Washington State Leaders Outline Steps To Preserve Net Neutrality

Washington State House Republicans
Flickr -

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and state lawmakers say they'll take action to preserve net neutrality rules for internet providers. This in light of an expected Federal Communications Commission vote Thursday to roll back Obama-era regulations.

?Inslee said there are at least five options at the state level to compel broadband companies such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon to treat all internet traffic equally. ??

"We're here to say that we are not powerless today and we will act to protect Washingtonians against violations of net neutrality,” the governor said.

Inslee said the state can use its purchasing power to favor compliant companies. It can make access to utility poles more difficult for others and permit public utility districts to offer retail broadband to increase consumer choice. ?

Separately, state representatives from both parties have introduced bills for the 2018 session of the Washington Legislature to forbid internet companies from throttling speeds or charging to prioritize traffic. That could bring a showdown because the proposed FCC regulatory rollback includes a clause to pre-empt state attempts to re-regulate the internet.

"My bill is very similar to Representative Drew Hansen's bill," said Republican state Rep. Norma Smith, referring to a Democratic colleague. "We'll work on where we might have a few differences -- very similar in no blocking, no throttling, no paid prioritization."

Internet providers insist the FCC vote does not spell the end of net neutrality. ?

"What will change is that this country will return to a rational regulatory framework similar to the one that capably governed the internet for decades before," wrote Joan Marsh, executive vice president of regulatory and state affairs at AT&T. ?

Comcast Senior Executive Vice President David Cohen complained in a blog post about "distortions" and "inaccurate attacks" by unnamed detractors. Marsh chimed in Wednesday to bemoan "heated and empty rhetoric." ?

"Consumers will remain protected," Cohen wrote. "We have repeatedly stated, and reiterate today, that we do not and will not block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content. These fundamental tenets of net neutrality are also key components of our core network and business practices." ?

Inslee, flanked by Democratic state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, clearly doesn't believe the companies' assurances. ?

"They are spending millions of dollars to lobby the Trump administration and others to allow violations of net neutrality," Inslee said. 

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.