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Oregon Capitol Building, Salem, Ore.

Oregon Lawmakers Send Net Neutrality Bill to Governor

The Oregon Senate passed a bill this week that would prohibit the state from contracting with internet service providers that do not abide by net neutrality requirements. The measure goes to Gov. Kate Brown.

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The bill (HB 4155) passed the Oregon Senate with a 21-7 vote on Thursday. It had passed the House earlier.

The bill is the second dealing with net neutrality in recent days to pass a state legislature. Washington state lawmakers earlier in the week approved a measure that outright requires internet service providers to abide by net neutrality requirements – essentially that they treat internet traffic equally. That is, they can’t speed up some internet traffic for additional money, or slow down or block traffic that they don’t like or that is less profitable for them.

Net neutrality requirements were required by federal rule until December, but were repealed by the Federal Communications Commission. Several states have since considered restoring the requirements on a state-by-state basis, though there are questions about whether they can do that legally.

The Oregon bill takes a different approach than Washington, essentially seeking to coax companies into following net neutrality requirements by denying them state contracts if they don’t. That’s a similar approach taken by governors of several states, including Montana, New York, New Jersey and Vermont, who have issued the same requiement in executive orders.  Many proponents of net neutrality requirements hope Congress will overrule the FCC and restore the rules. Oregon’s bill has an exemption for areas with only one internet service provider.

“This bill says that government entities – cities, counties and state agencies – cannot enter into a new contract with an Internet provider that does not subscribe to net neutrality and that they will practice net neutrality as they offer their services,” Oregon Sen. Lee Beyer, who carried the bill in the state Senate, said in a statement. “It puts Oregon in a position with most of the other states to put pressure on Congress to do the right thing about net neutrality.

“We are looking to join seven states that already have enacted net neutrality, in addition to 26 other states currently considering net neutrality legislation,” Beyer said. “I think this is what most Oregonians want, to make sure they are not restricted in their ability to download a movie, play a game or do business on the Internet.”

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