Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano, Wayne DeAngelo and Raj Mukherji have re-introduced legislation to help ensure equal internet access in New Jersey now that California’s own attempts to secure net neutrality have succeeded in the federal courts.
The bill (A-5411) was previously introduced last session in response to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealing net neutrality regulations under the Trump Administration. The FCC’s decision to repeal these regulations removed protections that would ensure equal internet access while preventing internet service providers (ISPs) from charging customers higher fees or stopping/slowing internet service.
The “New Jersey Net Neutrality Act” would establish a system to ensure that all New Jersey ISP customers are able to receive proper internet service.
“The Trump administration’s 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). “Now that legislative attempts to ensure net neutrality in another state have overcome legal obstacles, New Jersey must ensure equal internet access for all residents by implementing net neutrality within our own state.”
Under the bill, ISPs are to provide customers access to any lawful internet content of their choice and the ability to attach any lawful, non-harmful device to their end connection. They must also allow customers to run any lawful application or use any lawful service of their choice, and provide access to an open, neutral and non-prioritized Internet.
“The effects a lack of net neutrality could have on our freedom to access information, and our democracy as a whole, are enormous,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “Who’s to say internet service providers won’t selectively restrict access to information in order to aid people or organizations with more power than the everyday citizen? The FCC’s decision has led our country down a dangerous rabbit hole, which is why we need to do whatever we can to prevent such possibilities from happening.”
The measure 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 their general prioritization policies and any agreement they have entered into with a content provider for the prioritization of the provider’s internet traffic. ISPs are also required to permit customers to receive itemized bills, listing the time and date a customer visited a specific website if the customer is charged for accessing that site.
“ISPs should treat internet traffic equally and offer every New Jerseyan a chance to innovate, rather than block or slow down access to content,” said Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson). “Net neutrality, transparency, and an open, fair and free Internet are necessary for families and businesses alike to succeed in the 21st century.”
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 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 legislation would be considered an unlawful practice under the Consumer Fraud Act, punishable by a monetary penalty.