March 26, 2018

Senate net neutrality bill to ban content blocking

A Senate bill released Monday morning would impose a ban on internet service providers blocking customers from accessing certain content, throttling down the speed at which a customer can connect to certain websites and accepting fees in exchange for faster connectivity.

The legislation, produced by a Senate committee created to respond to the Federal Communications Commission's repeal of so-called net neutrality rules, will be the subject of a public hearing of the Special Senate Committee on Net Neutrality and Consumer Protection on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. in Hearing Room A-1.

The bill would also prohibit internet service providers (ISPs) from collecting, using or sharing a consumer's personal data without their consent. The 26-employee state Department of Telecommunications and Cable would oversee net neutrality at the state level and would be given authority to "make an assessment against each internet service provider" in order to "cover the new costs associate with the Department's new role in the ISP sector," according to the committee's report.

"We have developed the proposed legislation to protect the Commonwealth's residents, tech sector and the free flow of ideas online," Sen. Cynthia Creem, who led the special committee, said. "We must fill in the gap left by the federal government in the areas of net neutrality and consumers' broadband privacy. When Washington shirks its responsibilities, the states must lead the way."

In December, the FCC approved an order reversing its Obama-era net neutrality rules, which deemed internet service a public utility and required internet providers to treat all traffic equally.

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