Montana today became the first state in the nation to put some sort of state-level net neutrality requirement in place as its governor signed an order requiring state vendors to abide by the standards.
David Royse | LedeTree
The order, signed by Gov. Steve Bullock, says that for telecommunications providers to receive state contracts in Montana, they must not block legal content, slow down any content, or otherwise impair or degrade internet traffic on the basis of content. The order also says telecom providers must not be paid to favor some content over other content, or otherwise interfere with users’ ability to select what they can access on the internet if the company wants state contracts.
“Montanans expect and rely on the traditional principle that internet service providers will not pick and choose what content they can see-rather, Montanans expect that their internet service providers will be “neutral” and abide by principles commonly referred to as “internet neutrality,” the executive order says.
The move follows the Federal Communications Commission’s decision in December to repeal similar requirements for all telecom companies nationwide. Several state lawmakers in various states have since introduced legislation that would require so-called “net neutrality” in the states – but no state has yet passed any such legislation. Its unclear, and likely would be the subject of a court challenge, as to whether states can implement their own net neutrality rules in the wake of the federal decision to drop the rules.
“We’ve had access to a free and open internet,” Bullock said while announcing the executive order at Helena High School, his alma mater. “But a free and open internet is no longer guaranteed. The loss of internet neutrality principles threatens the future of the students standing in this very room.
“There has been a lot of talk around the country about how to respond to the recent decision by Federal Communications Commission to repeal net neutrality rules, which keep the internet free and open,” Bullock said. “It’s time to actually do something about it. This is a simple step states can take to preserve and protect net neutrality. We can’t wait for folks in Washington DC to come to their senses and reinstate these rules.”
I signed an executive order at my former high school to ensure the State of Montana will only do business with companies that adhere to #netneutrality and I’m inviting all other states to join me – if you want a copy, I’ll personally email it to you. pic.twitter.com/ZZSJ0ZrELp
— Steve Bullock (@GovernorBullock) January 22, 2018
Backers of the repeal, led by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, argued that less regulation of the internet spurs innovation, and that telling providers they can’t make more money by figuring out ways to deliver some content at a premium stifles growth.
The state of Montana does purchase a significant amount of internet service, but it’s one of the smallest states in population. A move similar to Bullock’s would carry more weight in a larger state such as New York or California, two states where lawmakers may consider net neutrality requirements through legislation.
Bullock invited other states to look at his solution in the short-term.
“To every governor and every legislator in every statehouse across the country, and to every small business and every Fortune 500 company that wants a free and open internet when they buy services: I will personally email this to you,” Bullock said.
Bullock’s order goes into effect July 1.