Oregon approves its own net neutrality revival

10 April 2018 by Steve Blum
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Beginning next year, local and state government agencies in Oregon won’t be able to buy broadband service from providers that don’t abide by the network neutrality principles signed into law yesterday by Oregon governor Kate Brown. The ban includes wireline, fixed wireless and mobile carriers, and extends to service subsidised by public agencies, as well as direct purchases.

An Internet service provider will be on the blacklist if it…

  • Engages in paid prioritization;
  • Blocks lawful content, applications or services or non-harmful devices;
  • Impairs or degrades lawful Internet traffic for the purpose of discriminating against or favoring certain Internet content, applications or services or the use of non-harmful devices;
  • Unreasonably interferes with or unreasonably disadvantages an end user’s ability to select, access and use the broadband Internet access service or lawful Internet content, applications or services or devices of the end user’s choice; or
  • Unreasonably interferes with or unreasonably disadvantages an edge provider’s ability to make devices or lawful content, applications or services available to end users.

There are exceptions. The big one is that if a guilty ISP is the only option in a particular area, then public agencies can do business with it. Otherwise, the Oregon Public Utilities Commission can allow paid prioritisation or other banned activities if there is a particular public interest at stake – think, prioritising police or fire traffic. The OPUC is also the arbiter of what qualifies as reasonable network management practices.

Any broadband provider that crosses any of these redlines has to first quit doing it and then get the OPUC’s blessing before it can go back to selling service to public agencies.

Oregon’s bill is more modest than the one passed by the Washington legislature in February. It only applies to state and local government contracts. On the other hand, it’s likelier to withstand the court challenges promised by lobbyists for the big incumbents.

Two similar net neutrality revival bills are up for consideration in the California legislature. Senate bill 460 is on ice in the assembly, perhaps waiting for senate bill 822 to make its way over from the senate side. It’s scheduled for a committee vote next week.