The Free Internet Project

Illinois Introduces State Bill Seeking to Protect Net-Neutrality

Since the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to repeal the Obama-era net neutrality rules in December 2017, many states have been at work trying to safeguard against the possible negative fallout. On February 14, 2018, Illinois State Rep. Ann Williams filed House Bill 4819, the Broadband Procurement and Disclosure Act.

HB 4819 requires that all internet service providers (ISPs) who do business with state agencies adhere to basic net neutrality principles. The bill requires that the ISPs make “clear and conspicuous” statement disclosing the ISP’s network management practices. Most importantly, the bill aims to restore basic net neutrality rules by mandating that all ISPs providing service to Illinois agencies “shall not block” users from accessing lawful content. The bill also provides that ISPs shall not “impair” or “degrade” lawful traffic to the user, based on content. Finally, the bill prohibits ISPs from manipulating broadband service to favor certain traffic, and from unreasonably interfering with either the end user’s ability to access desired content or content producer’s ability to make content available to users.

Introducing the bill, State Rep. Ann Williams said, “[t]oday, an open internet has never been more necessary or vital. If the FCC is going to choose to move us backward, Illinois will push forward in order to protect net neutrality and keep companies responsible and transparent to their consumers. I am proud to sponsor this legislation and look forward to building a statewide coalition to ensure its passage.” Illinois is particularly vulnerable to the potential negative consequences from the repeal of net neutrality because most of its residents receive broadband service from only few telecommunications giants. In fact, nearly 50 million American household have access to only one high-speed ISP in their area. Such limited competition may give the ISPs superior advantage and control over the content served to those households.