[Updated: New York Governor Cuomo followed Montana Governor Bullock’s lead this morning (1/24/18) and signed a similar executive order barring the state from contracting with internet service providers unless they agree to follow net neutrality. Gov. Cuomo said. “With this executive order, we reaffirm our commitment to freedom and democracy and help ensure that the internet remains free and open to all.”]
Way out West in the state of Montana there’s a showdown – it’s Bullock versus Pai. Democratic Governor Steve Bullock has become the first to implement net neutrality requirements for state contracts. “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,” Bullock said, according to the Hill.com The order says that in order to receive a contract with the state government, internet service providers must not engage in blocking or throttling web content or create internet fast lanes.
This directive challenges FCC chairman Ajit Pai’s recent rule change on net neutrality.
Montana wants to maintain the rules prohibiting broadband providers from blocking or slowing websites or charging for higher-quality content and service that have recently been withdrawn by FCC chairman Ajit Pai. The widely popular rules were originally put in force under the Obama era FCC.
And there are plenty of challenges to the rule change involving legislation floating around state houses. Attorneys general in twenty one states, including Vermont AG T.J. Donovan, are suing the FCC to keep net neutrality. Senators Leahy and Sanders and our lone Congress-critter Peter Welch also opposed the FCC on this scheme to undo net neutrality.
At the state level Secretary of State Jim Condos has also voiced his support for maintaining net neutrality. This past spring there was a joint resolution in the legislature urging the FCC to retain net neutrality.
But for now Governor Bullock’s executive order in Montana is the first executive order designed to accomplish the same goal. In a statement, Bullock’s office urged other states concerned about net neutrality to use its order as a template for their own efforts: Governor Bullock invited other governors and statehouses to join him. Governor Bullock’s administration will offer the framework to other states who wish to follow. “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,” [added emphasis]
State-mandated net neutrality could be a popular issue for someone to champion here in Vermont. At the time of the FCC rule change a spokesperson for Governor Scott (R) said he was “disappointed” with it. It is not impossible but realistically it is hard to imagine Gov. Scott taking an action as aggressive as issuing an executive order like Governor Bullock’s – certainly not without some prompting toward perhaps channeling his “disappointment.”
Maybe someone else will pick it up. Such as, say, someone who not only favors net neutrality but might have hopes to run against Phil Scott for governor. Someone who values the future, maybe, someone like 13-year-old Ethan Sonneborn, of Bristol, who has announced he is running. Somebody get a comment from the young man!