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New Jersey Joins States Pressuring ISPs on Net Neutrality

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order this week to require all internet service providers wanting to business with the state agree to net neutrality.

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New Jersey became the latest in a string of states to take action to try to force internet providers to adhere to net neutrality principles even though a rule requiring net neutrality was repealed by federal regulators late last year. Net neutrality rules essentially require internet providers to treat all legal content equally – not speeding up some favored content (that could cost more) or slowing down or blocking other content.

“We all deserve free, open, and equal access to the internet,” Murphy said in a Twitter post late Monday. “The FCC’s repeal of net neutrality was arbitrary and dangerous and will give outsized power to a few big companies to control the free flow of information.”

Now New Jersey internet service providers, if they want state business, must not block, slow down or otherwise impair or degrade any legal internet traffic on the basis of content.

“As a major purchaser of Internet Services state government will … exercise our power as a consumer to make our preference known,” Murphy said during a news conference ahead of signing the executive order.

Murphy, who was just elected governor last year in The Garden State, said the Federal Communications Commission’s decision in December to repeal net neutrality rules was “a decision I still can’t quite figure out.”

Since the FCC vote, several state officials have promised to try to prevent companies from favoring some content over others. Legislators in a few states, including California and New York, have introduced legislation to try to require net neutrality. But more immediately effective, several state governors, starting with Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, have signed executive orders that require internet service providers to abide by net neutrality rules if they want to do business with the state. States tend to buy lots of internet service.

Backers of the FCC’s decision to repeal the Obama-era rule requiring net neutrality argued that the rules, which prevented internet companies, for example, from selling bundled packages that would give favored access to content from certain providers, stifled innovation in the industry.

Since the decision, there’s been a public outcry the likes of which has been rarely seen when involving arcane regulatory policy – but internet service touches directly the lives of a large number of Americans.

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Since the outcry, AT&T, which is one of the nation’s biggest internet service providers, said it didn’t discriminate against any content, had no plans to, and called for an internet Bill of Rights guaranteeing “neutrality, transparency, openness, non-discrimination and privacy protection for all internet users.”

 

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