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Oregon becomes second state to enact net neutrality law

Law prohibits state agencies from doing business with ISPs that don't agree to treat all traffic on the internet equally.

James Martin/CNET

Oregon's governor signed a bill Monday that requires internet service providers doing business with the state to adhere to the principles of net neutrality, becoming the second state to pass legislation aimed at restoring the rules.

The bill, signed by Gov. Kate Brown, doesn't place new requirements on ISPs in the state, but prohibits state agencies from contracting with providers that don't agree to treat all traffic on the internet equally. The law, which takes effect in 2019, comes about four months after the FCC voted to dismantle the controversial Obama-era regulations.

"The internet has democratized knowledge and is an invaluable tool for education. It's so important that it remains open and accessible for everyone," Brown said in a statement last week. "In Oregon, we want to make sure that access to the internet is a level playing field, instead of exacerbating economic disparity."

Supporters of net neutrality say the rules, which were adopted in 2015 under President Barack Obama, are necessary to ensure broadband companies don't abuse their power as gatekeepers of the internet. Companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter supported the 2015 rules. But broadband providers say the rules were too onerous and stifled investment. Broadband providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon support the FCC's repeal of the rules. 

Other proponents are trying to keep it alive. The Senate passed the Congressional Review Act, a way to overrule the agency. (Find out how every senator voted here.) But it faces an uphill battle, with the CRA still needing approval from the House and President Trump. 

Brown's signature comes a month after Washington state passed the first law in the union prohibiting ISPs from blocking or slowing down web content, although Oregon's law is narrower in scope.

But like Washington state, Oregon's law is also almost certainly going to face challenge from the federal government, as the FCC's vote in December approved a provision that prohibits states from enacting their own net neutrality rules.

Governors in several states, including New York, New Jersey and Montana, have done the same thing as Oregon through an executive order.  In all, more than half of US states, including California, Connecticut and Maryland, are considering legislation to protect net neutrality.

The FCC didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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