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Montana becomes first state to implement net neutrality after FCC repeal

Montana becomes first state to implement net neutrality after FCC repeal
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Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) signed an executive order on Monday requiring internet service providers with state contracts to abide by net neutrality principles.

The order makes his state the first to push back on the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to repeal the open internet rules last month.

“There has been a lot of talk around the country about how to respond to the recent decision by the Federal Communications Commission to repeal net neutrality rules, which keep the internet free and open. It’s time to actually do something about it,” Bullock said in a statement.

“This is a simple step states can take to preserve and protect net neutrality. We can’t wait for folks in Washington DC to come to their senses and reinstate these rules.”

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The order says that in order to receive a contract with the state government, internet service providers must not engage in blocking or throttling web content or create internet fast lanes. Those practices were all banned under the Obama-era 2015 net neutrality order.

The Republican FCC voted to dismantle those rules in December. 

The FCC's repeal includes a ban on states implementing their own net neutrality rules, but Democratic-controlled legislatures around the country are eager to challenge that provision.

Democrats are fighting back by pushing for legislation in Congress that would wipe out the FCC vote, suing to overturn it and now by implementing laws at the state level. They argue the rules were an important check on the power of companies that control access to the internet, such as Comcast and Verizon.

But most Republicans, including FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, argue the rules were unnecessary and that existing laws are sufficient to preserve an open internet.

Bullock’s office said the executive order goes into effect immediately, but there will be a six-month grace period for companies to ensure that they’re in compliance.

The governor said on Monday that he is encouraging his counterparts and legislators in other states to follow suit, promising to personally email a copy of his order to any who ask for it.

“When the FCC repealed its net neutrality rules, it said consumers should choose,” Bullock said in his statement. “The State of Montana is one of the biggest consumers of internet services in our state. Today we’re making our choice clear: we want net neutrality.”

—Updated at 3:37 p.m.