‘Net neutrality’ dies today, except in Washington state

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai speaks to members of the media after a commission meeting December 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. FCC has voted to repeal its net neutrality rules at the meeting. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

OLYMPIA, Wash —  Your ability to watch and use your favorite apps and services could start to change following the official demise Monday of Obama-era internet protections.

That is, except if you live in Washington state.

The nationwide repeal of “net neutrality” took effect six months after the Federal Communications Commission voted to undo the rules, which had barred broadband and cellphone companies from favoring their own services and discriminating against rivals such as Netflix.

But net neutrality remains alive and well in Washington, thanks to a bi-partisan bill that was signed into law earlier this year.

Internet providers such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast had to treat all traffic equally. They couldn’t slow down or block websites and apps of their choosing. Nor could they charge Netflix and other video services extra to reach viewers more smoothly. The rules also barred a broadband provider from, say, slowing down Amazon’s shopping site to extract business concessions.

In Washington, though, House Bill 2282 went into effect Monday night. The bill's prime sponsor Drew Hansen, D-Kitsap, said the bill keeps all Obama era net neutrality laws in place.

"We did it to have a free and open internet," Hansen said.

The bill keeps the core of net neutrality in place, meaning service providers can't throttle speeds, prioritize certain sites or cut deals with some content providers; all now legal nation-wide.

Other state's are trying to follow Washington's example. Oregon has a net neutrality law that will go into effect later this year. A net neutrality bill is also making its way through California legislature.

Hansen attributes both Democrats and Republicans in Washington for coming together and passing the bill. The house bill passed in February by a 93-5 vote.

"Washington has a long history of working across party lines for consumer protection," Hansen said.

He said the Washington bill received an overwhelmingly positive response from constituents. From school teachers to small business owners, everyone who approached him seemed on board. He wonders why Congress can't do the same.

"The people really want a free and open internet," Hansen said. "The people are demanding it. I don't understand why Congress can't do that."