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Washington passes first state law protecting net neutrality

Legislation signed into law, despite an FCC order prohibiting states from creating their own similar laws.

Washington on Monday became the first state in the union to approve its own net neutrality law following the Federal Communications Commission's dismantling of the controversial Obama-era regulations last year.

The law, signed on Monday by Gov. Jay Inslee, prohibits internet service providers from blocking or slowing down web content. The law comes about three months after the FCC voted to dismantle rules that ensured all traffic on the internet is treated equally and prevented broadband and wireless providers from blocking or slowing online content.

"We've seen the power of an open internet. It allows a student in Washington to connect with researchers all around the world  --  or a small business to compete in the global marketplace," Inslee said in a statement. "It's allowed the free flow of information and ideas in one of the greatest demonstrations of free speech in our history."

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. 

While Montana, New York and New Jersey had previously owned net neutrality policies, this is the first state law passed that preserves the core principles. It's 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.

It's not the only legal action in the works over net neutrality. A coalition of 23 state attorneys general filed a lawsuit last month challenging the legality of the FCC's move on Constitutional grounds.

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. 

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

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