On June 11, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) officially repealed almost all of the net neutrality contract, which was designed to enhance users’ experiences on the internet. While this could be detrimental to the average internet user, some states such as North Carolina have countered the repeal by introducing legislation that requires net neutrality in their state.
Net neutrality is meant to give each internet user equal rights and fair prices. Repealing net neutrality allows for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to be able to corner markets and have large control over prices, making the consumer suffer. Last week, North Carolina State Senators introduced a bill that would require ISPs to be subject to net neutrality laws for state contracts, as well as options for local contracts. If enacted this would prohibit ISPs from blocking certain websites and would allow them to charge more for online content and faster streaming.
North Carolina is not the only state to take legislative action for net neutrality. Washington and Oregon have already enacted net neutrality laws, with several other states doing so via executive order. The Attorney General of several states, as well as companies like Foursquare, Kickstarter and Mozilla, have all filed lawsuits against the FCC’s repeal in hopes of reinstating the old rules.
While almost all of net neutrality was repealed, one was left—the “Transparency Rule.” This requires ISPs to reveal when and what content they block or slow, and for what reasons. ISPs must also tell when they offer priority services and what the conditions for priority service are.
The current content of the North Carolina bill is highly restrictive, wanting to limit any breach of power by ISPs. This comes after a negative response from the FCC action and a 2005 incident where an ISP briefly overstepped its boundaries.
Based in Mebane, the small Madison River Communications ISP temporarily blocked the much larger ISP Vonage, who was their top competitor. Vonage filed a complaint to the FCC, who then mandated that Madison River Communications restore access to Vonage and pay a $15,000 fine.
For North Carolina, the passing of the net neutrality bill is crucial. Sen. Jay Chaudhuri (D-Wake), one of the bill’s creators, expressed that he, along with his constituents, did not want to pay an exorbitant amount for internet service.
“I represent a district that includes innovators,” Chaudhuri explained, referencing N.C. State University and the companies in the Research Triangle. “If you take away net neutrality and we see fees introduced, that places a disproportionate burden on small businesses. The small business owner and the innovator can’t compete on the same level playing field as a large corporation.”
Along with Chaudhuri, other state legislators have been adamant about voicing their concerns over net neutrality.
“North Carolinians should not have to pay more to access content online,” said Rep. Graig Meyer (D-Orange). “In the 21st century, the internet is necessary for daily life and integral for commerce. This bill will help to ensure that this is the case in our state.”