The state’s governor, Steve Bullock, signed an executive order Monday that effectively reinstates net neutrality principles dismantled by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in December. Montana will curtail the power of internet service providers (ISPs) by preventing those with a state contract to block or charge more for faster speeds to certain websites.
“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, D.C., to come to their senses and reinstate these rules.”
Net neutrality is a principle upholding that all content on the internet should be treated equally by internet service providers. It prevents ISPs from throttling or blocking sites, giving an unfair advantage to larger companies that can afford to pay them off. Last month, the Republican-controlled FCC repealed Obama-era net neutrality rules in a 3:2 vote. Senate Democrats are now scrambling in search of one more vote to pass legislation that aims to overturn the FCC’s decision.
Montana’s executive order will go into effect immediately, though there is a six-month grace period for major broadband companies who hold a license in the state—Charter, CenturyLink, AT&T, and Verizon—to ensure they’re following the rules. Starting July 1, those companies will need to operate in Montana as though net neutrality laws were never repealed.
The order could face considerable opposition. Trade groups consisting of smaller broadband providers are already considering lawsuits, the New York Times reports.
“Following patchwork of legislation or regulation is costly and makes it even harder to invest in networks,” Matt Polka, president of the American Cable Association, told the Times.
The executive action only applies to Montana but could quickly trickle down to other states. Bullock said he would provide a personal copy of his orders to anyone who asks for it and posted a “template” of the Montana order on Twitter.
“This is simple plug and play for other states to do as well,” Bullock said.