When the GOP-controlled Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted in 2018 to end net neutrality, then-Commissioner Mignon Clyburn expressed her disappointment.
Clyburn argued that the move would give too much power to internet service providers who would mostly have a license to slow speeds for some websites and services while ramping it up for others who paid more.
“We are supposed to be here protecting the consumer’s experience and interests when it comes to communications and other services,” Clyburn said. “We are supposed to be enablers of opportunities, both for businesses and individuals.”
Two years later, D.C. Council members are hoping to protect residents with a proposed Consumer Net Neutrality Protection Act.
If enacted, the bill would codify net neutrality protections and prohibit internet service providers from engaging in discriminatory practices such as blocking content and impairing consumer internet usage.
“A free and open internet is critical to our society. Consumers rely on broadband connectivity to drive growth, personal and community development, but also to facilitate public debate and government accountability,” said Council member David Grosso, who along with council colleagues Anita Bonds, Elissa Silverman, and Mary Cheh, co-introduced the measure.
“Net neutrality is also crucial for small business owners, startups and entrepreneurs, who rely on the open internet to launch their enterprises, create markets, advertise their products and services, and reach consumers,” Grosso said in a news release.
In 2015, the FCC under the Obama administration established net neutrality protections for telecommunications services, only to have those protections repealed in 2017 under the President Trump-appointed FCC chairman.
With the repeal of these net neutrality protections, internet service providers are permitted to block or slow down internet access, demand pay-to-play from websites or applications, or otherwise interfere with end-users’ access to the internet, Grosso said.
Since then, federal courts have upheld the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality but left it up to states to write their own regulations.
Under Grosso’s bill, internet service providers will be prohibited from discriminating against information and lawful internet traffic by blocking, slowing down, or engaging in paid prioritization.
“This will benefit all internet users in the District of Columbia by establishing our own net neutrality protections that prohibit discriminatory, anti-consumer, and anti-competitive conduct by broadband providers,” Grosso.
Presently, nine states have enacted their own versions of net neutrality legislation, while 34 states have introduced legislation attempting to reestablish net neutrality protections.
If passed, the District of Columbia would join jurisdictions, such as California and New York, that have committed to ensuring an open and free internet for all, that allows room for transparent and consumer-oriented conduct by internet service providers.
“Every D.C. resident has the right to equal access to all lawful content using any lawful device in the District, and we as elected leaders must stand up for that right,” Grosso said.