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California, New York Lead State-by-State Net Neutrality Drive

A protest at the Federal Communications Commission in Washington on Dec. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

First, it was a Democrat in California. Then a Democrat in New York followed suit. Now, the Chicago Sun-Times hopes to find a state legislator of similar mind to declare Illinois to be a net-neutrality state.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee, told her supporters there is no need to fly off the handle over the FCC’s decision to scrap the Obama administration’s net neutrality order. She is confident Congress will be able to guarantee an internet that remains open to all.

However, Arizona Republic columnist Jon Gabriel opined that as lovely as the phrase “net neutrality” sounds, his daughters, and the rest of us, would all be better off if the government kept its hands off the internet.

California state Sen. Scott Wiener (D) called the Federal Communications Commission decision to repeal net neutrality “a terrible step for the future of a free and open internet and for our democracy” in an article he published on Medium.

Afraid that without net neutrality internet service providers will be able to speed up, slow down, or even block access to websites the big corporations don’t like, Wiener has promised to introduce legislation in 2018 to make California a net-neutrality state.

Wiener said there are several ways California’s bureaucracy could take over the administration of the internet. He plans to spend 60 days to come up with a plan.

“California can regulate business practices to require net neutrality, condition state contracts on adhering to net neutrality, and require net neutrality as part of cable franchise agreements, as a condition to using the public right-of-way for internet infrastructure, and in broadband packages,” Wiener wrote.

He may be more than 2,400 miles away from Wiener, by air, but New York state Sen. Brad Hoylman (D) said he agreed with Wiener that the states should fill the vacuum created by the FCC.

“It is important because both California and New York have a lot of consumers and we have a lot of tech companies,” Hoylman told the New York Daily News.

Hoylman’s district includes the New York City offices for Google, Facebook and Twitter.

A Chicago Sun-Times editorial called for the Illinois Legislature to “jump into that battle” alongside New York and California.

“At stake is your right to be treated as an equal online. Also at stake could be Illinois’ growing tech industry,” the editorial read. “The FCC made it OK for internet providers to decide which websites and services their customers can access and how expensive and fast that access will be.”

The Sun-Times editorial also pointed out that Congress “could enshrine the concept of net neutrality into law if it wanted to go to bat for average people.”

Rep. Blackburn wants Congress to take a stand, but not quite the same position the Sun Times would prefer.

Blackburn has never liked net neutrality.

“Net neutrality, as it was passed in 2016, was really government control of the internet,” the congresswoman said in a Twitter video. “Lot of hubbub about net neutrality, (but) I imagine you still have access to the internet today.”

Blackburn also said she was working on federal legislation that would guarantee “the internet remains free and open for you to use,” without the Obama administration’s concept of net neutrality.

The net neutrality debate will also play out next year in the courts.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is leading nine of his fellow state attorneys general in a lawsuit aimed at overturning the FCC’s decision.

“We keep beating the Trump administration,” Ferguson said. “We’re 5-0 so far, because they rush these decisions.”

Gabriel wrote in the Arizona Republic that net neutrality “is one of those big government ideas that sounds great in theory but creates new problems in execution.”

He also pointed out the irony that those who most vociferously oppose President Trump are now striving to put the Trump administration back in charge of the internet by overturning the FCC’s decision.

“(Without net neutrality) web users and creators will be back in control of the internet instead of lawyers and bureaucrats, just as they were for all but the last couple years,” Gabriel wrote.

“And my daughters will get to watch their favorite YouTube celebrities complain about net neutrality for years to come.”