Governor Jay Inslee signs net neutrality into law
Governor Jay Inslee signs net neutrality into law (Photo: Washington State Legislative Services)

Net neu­tral­i­ty will soon be the law of the land again — at least in the Ever­green State — fol­low­ing today’s sign­ing of Sub­sti­tute House Bill 2282 by Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee, offi­cial­ly titled pro­tect­ing an open inter­net in Wash­ing­ton State.

“Today we make his­to­ry: Wash­ing­ton will be the first state in the nation to pre­serve the open inter­net,” Inslee said dur­ing today’s bill sign­ing ceremony.

“We’ve seen the pow­er of an open inter­net. It allows a stu­dent in Wash­ing­ton to con­nect with researchers all around the world — or a small busi­ness to com­pete in the glob­al mar­ket­place. It’s allowed the free flow of infor­ma­tion and ideas in one of the great­est demon­stra­tions of free speech in our history.”

Governor Jay Inslee signs net neutrality into law
Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee signs net neu­tral­i­ty into law (Pho­to: Wash­ing­ton State Leg­isla­tive Services)

The bill sign­ing is attract­ing nation­wide media cov­er­age, from The New York Times to Time to CNET to Wired to ABC.

The leg­is­la­tion goes into effect June 6th (nine­ty days fol­low­ing ses­sion adjourn­ment), and will restore some impor­tant pro­tec­tions that were out­ra­geous­ly gut­ted late last year by the Fed­er­al Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Commission.

Here is a sum­ma­ry of the bill as pro­vid­ed by non­par­ti­san staff in the House.

Inter­net providers in Wash­ing­ton are pro­hib­it­ed, with some excep­tions, from block­ing con­tent, appli­ca­tions, ser­vices, or non­harm­ful devices; impair­ing or degrad­ing (“throt­tling”) traf­fic on the basis of con­tent, appli­ca­tion, ser­vice, or use of non­harm­ful devices; or favor­ing some traf­fic over oth­ers in exchange for ben­e­fit (“paid prioritization”).

Inter­net providers in Wash­ing­ton are required to dis­close infor­ma­tion about net­work man­age­ment prac­tices, pe per­for­mance, and com­mer­cial terms. A vio­la­tion of the act is enforce­able under the Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Act, chap­ter 19.86 RCW, sole­ly by the Attor­ney Gen­er­al. The Inter­net Con­sumer Access Account is cre­at­ed in the State Treasury.

Sub­sti­tute House Bill 2282 passed the Leg­is­la­ture with over­whelm­ing sup­port ear­li­er this ses­sion. Only five Repub­li­cans vot­ed nay in the House, and only four­teen vot­ed nay in the Sen­ate. The House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives had pre­vi­ous­ly passed a sim­i­lar bill in 2017, but it was not act­ed on by the Repub­li­can-con­trolled Senate.

Thanks to Man­ka Dhin­gra’s vic­to­ry, net neu­tral­i­ty got a vote in both cham­bers this ses­sion and is now on our books as part of the Revised Code of Washington.

Repub­li­cans like Nor­ma Smith can be proud of their role in ensur­ing that Sub­sti­tute House Bill 2282 got lots of Repub­li­can sup­port on its way to the gov­er­nor’s desk. How­ev­er, Smith is wrong when she says this is not a par­ti­san issue.

Net neu­tral­i­ty is a par­ti­san issue — in every respect.

We would still have net neu­tral­i­ty at the fed­er­al lev­el if just one Repub­li­can had decid­ed not to vote to repeal the FCC’s Open Inter­net Order from 2015.

But instead, all three Repub­li­cans (led by the cor­rupt and con­temptible Ajit Pai), vot­ed to rescind the pro­tec­tions that mil­lions of Amer­i­cans had emphat­i­cal­ly and unequiv­o­cal­ly told them to keep in place through grass­roots lobbying.

The FCC’s two remain­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic mem­bers (Mignon Clyburn and Jes­si­ca Rosen­wor­cel) were the only com­mis­sion­ers to lis­ten to the people.

Pai’s par­ty-line vote is now being chal­lenged in court by mul­ti­ple plaintiffs.

It is also worth not­ing that all issues are inher­ent­ly par­ti­san — that is what makes them issues to begin with. As we explained here a few weeks ago when we pub­lished a tongue-in-cheek ban­ish­ment of that phrase:


Heard fre­quent­ly on the cam­paign trail. News­flash to can­di­dates, con­sul­tants, and elect­ed offi­cials: Every issue is a par­ti­san issue. That’s what makes it an issue. An issue is com­mon­ly under­stood to be an impor­tant top­ic or prob­lem for debate or dis­cus­sion (Oxford Dic­tio­nar­ies), while is a par­ti­san is any­one who strong­ly sup­ports a par­tic­u­lar cause. Any­one active in pol­i­tics is by nature a par­ti­san, not just those who belong to a polit­i­cal par­ty and call them­selves Democ­rats, Repub­li­cans, Lib­er­tar­i­ans, Greens, and so on. And all issues — even issues dis­cussed and debat­ed in sup­pos­ed­ly “non­par­ti­san” envi­ron­ments — have par­ti­san fissures.

That’s not a bad thing. Let’s stop pre­tend­ing that some issues can or should be above par­ti­san­ship… in a free coun­try that prizes an open exchange of ideas in its pol­i­tics, par­ti­san­ship is to be expected.

Can­di­dates, elect­ed offi­cials: Instead of say­ing x, y, or z shouldn’t be a par­ti­san issue, sim­ply say that you believe par­ti­san dis­agree­ments needn’t be a bar­ri­er to bipar­ti­san coop­er­a­tion that allows us to make mean­ing­ful progress tack­ling an issue.

We look for­ward to the day when net neu­tral­i­ty is no longer an issue at all, but rather sim­ply set­tled and accept­ed law that every­one agrees with.

Maybe that day will nev­er come, but we can dream… and in the mean­time, we’re very proud that Repub­li­cans in this Wash­ing­ton joined Democ­rats in say­ing yes to leg­is­la­tion that will safe­guard our Inter­net freedom.

This new law is almost cer­tain to face legal chal­lenges from foes of Inter­net free­dom. When Ajit Pai and his Repub­li­can cronies on the FCC rescind­ed the Open Inter­net order last year, they tried to pro­hib­it states from pass­ing their own net neu­tral­i­ty laws. That aspect of the Pai FCC order may now be lit­i­gat­ed on mul­ti­ple fronts.

Net Neutrality Now!
Net Neu­tral­i­ty Now! (Pho­to: Back­bone Campaign)

Com­cast and Ver­i­zon may soon be suing the peo­ple of Wash­ing­ton State as part of their cam­paign to destroy Inter­net free­dom. Should they do so, we know Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son will mount a vig­or­ous, unyield­ing defense in court.

If the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment will not uphold our val­ues, then states like Wash­ing­ton should and must step in to fill that vac­u­um. We at NPI are very, very proud that Wash­ing­ton is the first state in the coun­try to pass its own net neu­tral­i­ty law. We are also very proud that Ore­gon is about to get a sim­i­lar (albeit nar­row­er) law.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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