On Monday, Washington Governor Jay Inslee (D) signed the first state law in the nation that effectively restores to state residents net neutrality protections that were repealed by the FCC in the Internet Freedom Order last December. The new Washington State law poses a direct challenge to the FCC’s decision in the Internet Freedom order to (1) restore the classification of broadband Internet access services as Title I information services which are exempt from common carrier and other regulations that apply to Title II telecommunications carriers, and (2) roll back prohibitions against throttling, paid prioritization and other net neutrality rules that were enacted by the FCC in 2015. Unlike executive orders, signed recently by the governors of New York, Montana, Vermont, Hawaii and New Jersey, that prohibit state agencies from contracting services from Internet service providers (ISPs) that block or slow certain data transmissions, the Washington State law is structured as a consumer protection measure which requires ISPs in the state to observe rules of net neutrality. Although the FCC has specified that states are preempted from enacting their own rules pertaining to net neutrality, Inslee told reporters that his state was enacting net neutrality rules “under our own authority and our own laws” as he characterized net neutrality as “a free speech issue as well as a business development issue.”

Under the new law, which goes into effect on June 6, ISPs in the State of Washington are barred from blocking or throttling lawful web content, except when justified in cases of reasonable network management. ISPs are also prohibited from prioritizing content offered by affiliated entities and are required to publicly disclose information about their network management practices, performance and commercial terms. Enforcement of these and other provisions of the new law is slated to be handled by the state attorney general pursuant to the Washington State Consumer Protection Act. Signing the bill, Inslee proclaimed that, “today, we make history” as “Washington will be the first state in the nation to preserve the open Internet.” Adding, “this is a cause with overwhelming bipartisan support,” Washington State Representative Drew Hansen (D), the bill’s sponsor, remarked: “it’s always nice to see something where Democrats and Republicans can work together to maintain common sense consumer protections.”