A three-bill legislative package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Nicholas Chiaravalloti, Andrew Zwicker, Clinton Calabrese and Carol Murphy cleared the Assembly on Thursday. Together the measures require Internet service providers doing business in the state to meet certain net neutrality requirements ensuring New Jersey consumers continue to have equal access to the Internet.
Net neutrality rules created under the Obama administration required internet service providers to treat all content on the Internet equally. Under these rules, providers were prohibited from blocking, slowing down or prioritizing web traffic from some sites or apps, and giving preferential treatment to their own content over rivals, or to content from those willing to pay extra fees. These rules were repealed by the Federal Communications Commission last year.
“The FCC’s repeal of net neutrality regulations have made consumers vulnerable to the whims of the cable and telecomm companies,” said Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson). “These measures would help protect New Jersey consumers from potential price-gouging and other unfair practices.”
“A fair and open internet is critical to fostering innovation and economic growth, especially for small businesses and startups,” said Zwicker (D-Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex, Hunterdon). “These bills make clear that while the FCC may have abandoned its responsibility to internet consumers, New Jersey will do what it can to safeguard an open internet for all.”
The first bill (A-2131) would direct the Board of Public Utilities to prohibit an internet service provider (ISP) from installing broadband telecommunications infrastructure on any pole or post located on or over any highway or any right-of-way, or on any underground facility, belonging to a public utility or cable television company, unless the ISP: (1) publicly discloses to customers located in this state accurate information regarding the network management practices and performance, and commercial terms of its Internet service; (2) does not engage in paid prioritization; and (3) permits customers located in this state to access all lawful Internet content, applications, and services, and to use non-harmful Internet-enabled devices, without discrimination and without the impairment or degradation of Internet access speeds, subject to reasonable network management. Sponsored by Chiaravalloti, Zwicker and Calabrese, the measure passed 56-17-1 in the Assembly.
“Without legislated net neutrality we have no guarantee that content creators, and the internet users they rely on, can enjoy equal and unfettered access across internet platforms,” said Calabrese (D-Bergen, Passaic). “By mitigating the legal capacity for big conglomerates to control and direct internet traffic, we successfully preserve the interests of all New Jersey internet users.”
Approved 56-17-1, the second bill (A-2132), sponsored by Chiaravalloti, Zwicker and Murphy, would provide that no public contract be awarded to an Internet service provider that (1) engages in paid prioritization; (2) prevents customers located in this state from accessing all lawful Internet content, applications, and services or using non-harmful Internet-enabled devices; or (3) impairs or degrades Internet access speeds, subject to reasonable network management.
The final measure, sponsored by Chiaravalloti, Zwicker and Calabrese, was approved 54-17-0 by the Assembly. The bill (A-2139), would require a cable television company (CATV company) to commit to the principle of net neutrality for all Internet service customers as a condition of approval of an application filed with the Board of Public Utilities for a municipal consent or a system-wide franchise for the provision of CATV service.
Under the bill, a CATV company that provides Internet service in this state must commit to provide service that includes: public disclosure of accurate information regarding the network management practices and performance to customers, and commercial terms of its Internet service; the prohibition of paid prioritization; and the grant of permission to customers to: (1) access all lawful Internet content, applications, and services, and to use non-harmful Internet-enabled devices, without discrimination, subject to reasonable network management; and (2) access all lawful Internet content, applications, and services, and to use non-harmful Internet-enabled devices, without the impairment or degradation of Internet access speeds, subject to reasonable network management.
“The decision to repeal net neutrality will change the way people use the internet, and not for the better,” said Murphy (D-Burlington). “Weakening consumer protections should never be the goal of any government entity. These conditions can help restore some of the protections lost by forcing these companies to adhere to net neutrality principles if they want to do business in New Jersey.”
In all three bills, “paid prioritization” means the management of an ISP’s network – or in the case of A-2139, the management of a CATV company’s Internet network – to directly or indirectly favor some data traffic over other data traffic, including through use of techniques such as traffic shaping, prioritization, resource reservation, or other forms of preferential traffic management, either in exchange for consideration from a third party or to benefit an affiliated entity.
The bills now go to the Senate President for consideration.