Net neutrality contracting closer to law

A bill to require governmental agencies in Oregon to contract only with internet providers who practice “net neutrality” by allowing equal access and speed to content for no extra cost is on its way to the governor's desk for her signature.

SALEM — A bill to require governmental agencies to contract only with internet providers who practice “net neutrality” is on its way to Gov. Kate Brown’s desk for a signature.

The state Senate voted 21-to-7 to pass House Bill 4155 Thursday, March 2, with bipartisan support. The House approved the bill Feb. 26.

House Majority Leader Rep. Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland, proposed the state regulations to discourage internet companies from blocking, slowing down or charging more for certain content. The Federal Communications Commission repealed federal rules on net neutrality Dec. 14. The move prompted about 20 states, including Oregon, to sue the federal government to restore the protections.

Williamson’s bill is meant to serve as an incentive to providers to keep the internet open to all Oregonians.

“It’s particularly important to small businesses who are trying to create e-commerce,” said Sen. Lee Beyer, D-Eugene, who urged passage of the bill on the Senate floor Thursday.

Seven states have adopted similar rules, and 27 other states are considering legislation in that direction, Beyer said.

He said the rules are in the best interest of Oregonians “to ensure they are not restricted in their ability to download a movie, play a game or do business on the internet.”

During the House Feb. 26, House Republican Leader Mike McLane of Powell Butte proposed delaying the legislation in favor of starting a task force to look at policies to protect Oregonians’ access to the internet. He voted against the bill.

He said the Legislature should wait to enact policies until Oregon Department of Justice’s lawsuit to restore net neutrality to federal regulation is decided in the courts.

“She testified that if the suit is successful then this law is not necessary. So given the fact that we are going to have a time when we will know that for certain, let’s use that time to study and develop something we know will work and won’t be preempted by the federal government,” McLane said. “Right now, we are assuming (the bill) will work. I want it to work so that we don’t have access be cut off or slowed down for our constituents. I want it so much that I want to make sure we have this right.”

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