Colorado Lawmakers Pass Net Neutrality Bill

Colorado lawmakers have voted to impose the Obama-era net neutrality rules on internet service providers that receive public funds to build out their networks.

Governor Jared Polis, a Democrat, is expected to sign the measure.

State Senate Bill 78 would also require broadband providers that violate the Obama-era rules to pay back state funds. Those rules prohibit broadband carriers from blocking or throttling online traffic, and from charging higher fees for prioritized delivery.

The state's move comes 16 months after the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal the former open internet rules, which Chairman Ajit Pai criticized as “heavy-handed.” When the FCC revoked the regulations, it also prohibited states from passing their own measures.

Tech companies, advocacy groups and others have asked a federal appellate court to vacate the FCC's repeal order -- including the decision to override state laws. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in February, and is still considering the matter.

Net neutrality supporters argue net neutrality rules are necessary to prevent Comcast, AT&T and other broadband providers from censoring sites or discriminating against competitors like Netflix.

Pai says the former rules depressed broadband investment, but other observers disagree. The pro-neutrality advocacy group Free Press has said investment by 13 major broadband providers increased in the two years after the FCC passed the net neutrality regulations.

After the FCC's repeal vote, officials in Vermont, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Montana, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and California moved forward with efforts to reinstate the former rules on a state-wide basis.

The broadband industry challenged those efforts in court in California and Vermont. Both states agreed to hold off on enforcing their laws until after a federal court rules on the validity of the FCC's repeal of the former rules.

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