San Juan County, as well as Washington state, may be immune to the recent overhaul of federal regulations that mandated internet companies to treat users and content fairly.
On Dec. 14, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted to squash rules, known as net neutrality. These rules prevented companies from selling higher connection speeds to preferred websites and completely blocking content that differed from staff’s political, social or business views.
In the Dec. 13 edition of the Sounder, the story “SJC rural broadband sets example for rest of state” explained local Internet Service Providers’ stance on net neutrality. Before the FCC vote, Mark Madsen, a board member of the local electrical co-op, Orcas Power and Light Co-operative, said the organization’s ISP would maintain fair internet access. OPALCO took over the local ISP Rock Island Communications in 2014 and today, the for-profit company is a separate business, with separate finances, but OPALCO’s board oversees it.
“We as Rock Island and OPALCO have said ‘we will treat all of our customers equally, we will treat all of their traffic equally, we will not prefer one type of website over another,’” said Madsen. “We are guaranteeing the same neutrality guidelines that have been the law.”
Stuart Baker, co-owner of another local ISP called Orcas Online, echoed the same guidelines. He noted, before the vote, that staff would not restrict customers’ access or content if the FCC de-regulated net neutrality. Orcas Online has used OPALCO’s original infrastructure to sell wireless connections to locals’ residences and businesses since 2008.
The day before the FCC vote, Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and other state leaders announced plans to maintain “an open internet and strengthen protections for consumers” according to the governor’s website. Washington’s elected officials are the first to take steps at the state level to protect net neutrality, according to medium.com/wagovernor.
The Washington proposal includes:
• Holding companies to their commitments not to block websites, throttle speeds or impose prioritization pricing.
• Leveraging the state’s power as a large purchaser of ISP and telecommunications services.
• Holding companies accountable for warranties made to consumers.
• Encouraging new entrants into the currently concentrated ISP market.”
On the day of the federal vote, Ferguson issued a press release stating he, like many attorney generals across the country, would file a “legal challenge” to the FCC’s ruling.
“Allowing internet service providers to discriminate based on content undermines a free and open internet,” said Ferguson in the press release. “Today’s action will seriously harm consumers, innovation and small businesses.”
For a more detailed list of Inslee’s proposal, visit medium.com/wagovernor and click “State leaders announce steps to protect net neutrality.”