Senate passes bill to restore net neutrality in Connecticut

The state Senate brought back by a single vote Friday a bill intended to restore Connecticut’s ability to prohibit internet service providers from blocking websites or charging them for faster delivery of their content.

Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman cast the vote that broke an 18-18 party-line tie, sending the measure to the House for consideration.

The bill, which was initially killed in committee through a procedural tactic, is a response to action by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) scrapping former President Barack Obama’s net neutrality regulations last year. Washington state and Oregon already have passed their own net neutrality laws forbidding providers to block or throttle content.

Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, said an open internet is good for Connecticut’s businesses, students and consumers, and stressed the measure isn’t a partisan issue.

“I think rolling back the net-neutrality principles was a dangerous rollback by the Trump administration,” Duff said. “It was something that really was not warranted and unfortunately created a lot of chaos and concern amongst people all across the country.”

Opponents of the state measure said it would conflict with the FCC’s regulations, ensure lawsuits, and suppress business competition.

Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, stressed the bill would let the state “come in and tell us how the information highway would be used and marketed.”

“We’re talking about the inability to innovate,” Fasano said. “We’re talking about the inability to have businesses get involved. Let the marketplace dictate where we want to be.”

Fasano said he had a letter from state Attorney General George Jepsen confirming the bill, labeled SB 2, would conflict with the FCC’s order, Fasano added.

“Because SB 2 would, on its face, require internet service providers operating in Connecticut to comply with state law requirements that are similar to the net-neutrality principles the FCC has repealed and purported to preempt, SB 2 would be in direct conflict with the FCC’s order,” the letter said.

Jepsen also noted, however, that he would defend a challenge to the measure as required by state law.

Consumers and constituents think everyone should have equal access to the internet without fast lanes and slow lanes, Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, said.

Bye said she believed the way the bill is structured could pass muster and would send “a serious message to our constituents that we’re standing up for them and not for big telecom.”

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