STATE HOUSE – Sen. Louis P. DiPalma’s legislation (2018-S 2008A) that would prohibit the state from entering into contracts with any internet service provider (ISP) who engages in business practices that were prohibited by recently repealed net neutrality rules was passed by the Senate Committee on Commerce last night.
The legislation would require ISPs that wish to compete for state contracts may not block lawful content or applications, slow down access to lawful internet content, offer paid prioritization of content or applications or unreasonably interfere with users’ ability to access lawful content or applications.
“It was quite unfortunate that the FCC decided to repeal the net neutrality rules. These rules protected the consumer and web site owners from being discriminated against by the large internet service providers in favor of large corporations who could afford to pay for a different level of internet service, effectively choking small business owners and consumers with added costs. Although the Rhode Island General Assembly does not have the power to mandate how internet providers conduct their business, we can say that any provider who engages in these unscrupulous business practices will not be considered for any state contract in Rhode Island,” said Senator DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton).
Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy, Speaker Pro Tempore of the House of Representatives, has introduced the companion legislation (2018-H 7076) in the House of Representatives.
“When net neutrality rules were enacted, it was ensured that everyone would have access to an open and equal internet. With the repeal of these rules, such open and fair access to the internet is in jeopardy. As a state we must ensure that these practices will not affect state and municipal contracts in order to protect Rhode Island consumers and local small businesses. It is my hope that this legislation will send a clear message to internet service providers that Rhode Island will not tolerate any business practices that abuse our residents and businesses,” said Representative Kennedy (D-Dist. 38, Hopkinton, Westerly).
The legislation focuses on state purchasing because FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s order also blocked states and municipalities from declaring net neutrality within their own borders. But state purchases for internet service are significant, and such a law would force ISPs to maintain neutrality if they wish to be eligible for government contracts.
The Federal Communications Commission repealed net neutrality rules that were established in 2015. The repeal of the rules went into effect on Monday of this week. The rules prohibited internet service providers from blocking or slowing down certain web content. The rules also prohibited providers from slowing down certain web sites if they did not pay for faster internet speeds.
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.