Montana Governor Steve Bullock on Monday issued an executive order aimed at restoring the net neutrality rules, at least within the state.
"Montana's future depends on a free and open internet. Today we became the first state in the nation to actually do something to safeguard internet freedom," Bullock said Monday in a Twitter post.
The order, which takes effect July 1, requires Internet service providers to follow net neutrality principles as a condition of securing contracts with state agencies. Specifically, the order requires providers that want state contracts to refrain from blocking or throttling traffic, engaging in paid prioritization, or unreasonably interfering with people's ability to access online content and services.
Bullock's move comes five weeks after the Federal Communications Commission voted to revoke net neutrality rules passed under the leadership of Chairman Tom Wheeler, an Obama appointee. The FCC's new order, called Restoring Internet Freedom, contains provisions prohibiting states from creating or enforcing their own state-specific net neutrality regulations.
It's not yet clear whether any part of the FCC's recent decision -- including the provisions that prevent states from creating their own rules -- will hold up in court. Already, 22 attorneys general, along with consumer groups and Mozilla, have challenged the FCC's order. Experts have specifically cast doubt on the FCC's ability to prevent state governments from devising their own broadband rules.
In any event, some observers also say that the type of order signed by Bullock may withstand a legal test, even if judges reject a broader challenge to the FCC's net neutrality order.
"States have enormous discretion with regard to their power of purchasing," says Harold Feld, senior vice president at the advocacy group Public Knowledge.
He adds that even when a federal law normally prevents states from passing their own laws, states are often able to follow their own standards when it comes to deciding how to spend money.
Other states, including New York and California, are considering new laws aimed at restoring net neutrality. In New York, Democratic Assembly member Patricia Fahy recently introduced a bill that's similar to the order signed Monday in Montana.