Following a vote by the FCC last month to repeal existing net neutrality protections and allow ISPs to regulate themselves, some states are enacting legislation of their own to ensure a level playing field. New Jersey is the latest to do so, with its Governor Phil Murphy signing an executive order mandating that ISPs follow net neutrality rules if they want to do business with state agencies.
The executive order makes New Jersey the third state to issue its own net neutrality rules. Montana was first, followed by New York. California is also trying to push a bill through that would go a step further by imposing rules directly on ISPs.
As for New Jersey, the executive order prohibits ISPs from throttling or creating paid fast lanes for lawful internet traffic and online services. The only exception would be in cases of "reasonable network management," which would have to be disclosed to the consumer.
"We may not agree with everything we see online, but that does not give us a justifiable reason to block the free, uninterrupted, and indiscriminate flow of information," Governor Murphy said. "And, it certainly doesn’t give certain companies or individuals a right to pay their way to the front of the line."
"While New Jersey cannot unilaterally regulate net neutrality back into law or cement it as a state regulation, we can exercise our power as a consumer to make our preferences known," he added.
According to Arstechnica, the FCC saw this coming and included language that prevents states from enforcing their own net neutrality regulations. To get around this, executive orders in New Jersey, Montana, and New York more narrowly target ISPs by imposing restrictions on state agencies, rather than ISPs directly. California's proposed bill is different in that it targets ISPs directly, but is currently pending in the State Assembly. There is concern by some, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, that California's bill might not survive lawsuits.
In a separate announcement, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced that New Jersey will join 21 other states and the District of Columbia in a lawsuit filed against the FCC over its net neutrality rollback.
"We are committed to taking whatever legal action we can to preserve the internet rights of New Jersey consumers, and to challenge the federal government’s misguided attack on a free and open internet," said Attorney General Grewal. "Our position is that the Federal Communications Commission acted arbitrarily and against the evidence before it when doing its about-face on net neutrality."
It remains to be seen how all this will play out.