Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano and Wayne DeAngelo have introduced legislation to protect net neutrality in New Jersey in light of the FCC’s controversial vote last week to repeal 2015 regulations meant to ensure equal access to content on the internet.
The bill was introduced two weeks ago in anticipation of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) vote this past Thursday to repeal regulations that ensure equal access to the Internet and prevent ISPs from charging customers higher fees or stopping or slowing down Internet service.
The bill (A-5257), entitled the “New Jersey Net Neutrality Act,” would establish a system to ensure that all New Jersey customers of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are able to receive proper Internet service.
“The FCC and its handful of political appointees flagrantly ignored the overwhelming will of the people in voting to allow service providers free reign to police the internet in any way they see fit and at whatever cost they desire,” said Quijano (D-Union). “This could also essentially amount to a tax on the poor if they decide to charge more for access to certain content. We can’t stand idly by while republicans continue to sell our government to the highest bidder.”
“The effects this will have on our freedom to access information, and our democracy as a whole, are enormous,” said DeAngelo. (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Who’s to say that internet service providers won’t feel beholden now to the people in power who helped give them what they want, thereby selectively restricting access to information to aid those in power? This is a dangerous rabbit hole we’ve just gone down and we need to do whatever we can to prevent that from happening.”
Under the bill, ISPs are to provide customers access to any lawful internet content of their choice, the ability to attach any lawful, non-harmful device to their end connection, the ability to run any lawful application or use any lawful service of their choice, and access to an open, neutral and non-prioritized Internet.
The bill also stipulates that ISPs must provide customers prior written notification of any change in their policies that will result in the prioritization of internet traffic, except in circumstances involving reasonable internet network management. ISPs are required to disclose to their customers prioritization policies generally, and any agreement the ISP has entered into with a content provider for the prioritization of the content provider’s Internet traffic. ISPs are also required to permit customers to receive itemized bills, and if an ISP charges for accessing particular websites, the bill shall list the time and date the customer accessed those websites.
Additionally, the bill directs the state Division of Consumer Affairs to establish the “New Jersey Internet Service Provider Registry” and promulgate regulations requiring all ISPs to affirmatively disclose to the division any prioritization policies, agreements with content providers for prioritization, and the material terms for their agreements with their customers, including all fees to be charged and any promises or assertions regarding connectivity speed.
The division is also directed to test each ISP’s connectivity speed. This information is to be posted online, in an understandable format, so that customers may compare the costs, prioritization policies, promised or asserted connectivity speeds, and actual connectivity speeds of ISPs within the State.
A violation of this bill would be considered an unlawful practice under the Consumer Fraud Act, which is punishable by a monetary penalty of not more than $10,000 for a first offense and not more than $20,000 for a subsequent offense.
The bill has been referred to the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee, which is chaired by DeAngelo.