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Net neutrality is dead, Washington state aims to bring it back to life

SEATTLE -- Net neutrality is officially dead. The Obama-era ruling that kept internet providers from playing favorites is being dismantled as of Monday.

But Washington state is still fighting to keep those regulations in place.

There's no need to refresh your browser just yet, but as net neutrality gets farther away in the rear-view mirror, you could notice some websites get slower unless they pay a premium for faster downloads.

Think of it like the express lanes on the highway: You can pay more to drive on an exclusive lane or you can sit in traffic. Repealing net neutrality allows for fast lanes on the web -- for a cost.

It's a popular concept for providers like Comcast and Verizon, who stand to gain by charging the Netflixes of the world for faster downloads. The Federal Communications Commission argues internet providers should be able to deliver cutting-edge download speeds for companies that want them.

But it's not so popular with the vast majority of Americans. According to a recent poll conducted by University of Maryland's School of Public Policy, 83 percent opposed repealing net neutrality, including 75 percent of Republicans, 86 percent of Independents and 89 percent of Democrats.

Washington state responded to FCC's repeal by signing its own net neutrality bill into law. It was a bipartisan effort championed by Washington state Rep. Drew Hansen, who says he heard from people all over the state with stories like this one from a military veteran.

"I'm trying to get my small business off the ground and let me tell you, I can't afford to pay for some fast-lane treatment to get my product to consumers," Hansen recalled the man tell him. "Thank you for making sure these neutrality rules remain in place so I can grow my business," he continued.

"It's important to everyone and that's why we want to keep these rules in Washington," Hansen said.

Washington will likely face legal challenges from the federal government and internet providers. The FCC says its ruling preempts any state law.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson claims he's ready to take it to court.

"There's huge challenges with what this administration is doing in rolling back those protections," Ferguson said. "That's why I filed a lawsuit challenging that and I'm also looking forward to defending our state law if anyone puts a challenge to that as well."

Washington's law protecting net neutrality will take effect the first week of June. Dozens of states across the country are also looking at creating their own versions.