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Washington Legislature passes net-neutrality bill after FCC’s repeal of new rules

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Internet providers would be prohibited from blocking content or impairing traffic under a net-neutrality measure passed Tuesday by the Washington Legislature.

The vote comes in response to the Federal Communications Commission’s recent repeal of net-neutrality rules.

The state Senate passed House Bill 2282 Tuesday on a bipartisan 35-14 vote and it now goes to Gov. Jay Inslee, who is expected to sign it. The House passed the measure earlier this month on a 93-5 vote.

“States must act to protect the internet,” said Democratic Sen. Kevin Ranker. “States must act to protect net neutrality.”

Under the measure, internet providers will also be required to disclose information about their management practices, performance and commercial terms. Violations would be enforceable under the state’s Consumer Protection Act.

The FCC voted in December to gut the Obama-era rules that meant to prevent broadband companies such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon from exercising more control over what people watch and see on the internet.

Big telecom companies have said the regulations could undermine investment in broadband and introduced uncertainty about what were acceptable business practices. Net-neutrality advocates say undoing these rules makes it harder for the government to crack down on internet providers who act against consumer interests and will harm innovation.

Last month, Washington was among more than 20 states and the District of Columbia which sued to try and block the FCC’s action. There are also efforts by Democrats to undo the repeal in Congress, and Washington is among several states that have introduced bills to protect net neutrality in their own states. However, the FCC’s order bars state laws from contradicting the federal government’s approach.

Republican Sen. Doug Ericksen said that litigation is certain if the measure is signed into law.

“It’s one of those items when you can say we’re making a statement, we’re trying to rule by the state because we’re upset about something that the current administration did,” he said. “The reality is you’re going to go to court. I think the likelihood is very strong that we will lose that litigation with regards to this particular action taken by the Legislature.”

The FCC’s new rules are not expected to go into effect until later this spring.