Gov. Cuomo Proposes N.Y. Net Neutrality Rules

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing net neutrality legislation that will essentially restore, on a statewide level, the net neutrality rules eliminated in the 2017 Restoring Internet Freedom order.

California passed a similar law in the wake of the FCC's ISP deregulation.

The Cuomo bill, which is a part of the governor's State of the State Agenda unveiled Thursday (Dec. 19), would prevent blocking, throttling and paid prioritization. In addition it would prohibit zero rating, which the FCC has never banned. It would also give consumers a private right of action (civil suits) for net neutrality violations.

Related: Groups Push for Re-hearing of Net Neutrality Decision

The law would also codify Cuomo's 2018 executive order that put net neutrality provisions in state contracts for broadband service.

"Taken together, these protections exceed the net neutrality standards established by the Federal Communications Commission in 2015, which the Trump administration subsequently repealed in 2017," the governor's office said.

"A free and open internet is one of the great equalizers — allowing every person the same access to information and helping protect freedom of speech," said Cuomo. "While the federal administration works to undermine this asset, in New York we are advancing the strongest net neutrality proposal in the nation so big corporations can't control what information we access or stymie smaller competitors. These protections will help ensure an open market for ideas and content across platforms and preserve the unimpeded access to online content the public wants and needs."

Related: Net Neutrality Focus Shifts to States, Hill

Enforcing the law would be the state's Department of Public Service. ISPs would have to disclose their network management practices, not only to the state but to the public, and would have to certify annually that they were in compliance with the state's net neutrality rules. If not, the Public Service department could fine them.

While the FCC, under current chairman Ajit Pai, had preempted any state efforts to reregulate in the 2017 Restoring Internet Freedom deregulatory order, the D.C. Circuit has said the commission exceeded its authority and could only preempt state efforts on a case-by-case basis under the “conflict preemption” provision that covers regulations that conflict with federal laws.

There was some disagreement over whether or not the court’s decision to wipe out that blanket preemption opened the door to a potential 50-state internet regulatory regime. FCC officials speaking on background didn’t see it that way, but activists on foreground said they did and would be pushing states to pass their own tough new laws.

Cuomo has clearly gotten that message, though he has long advocated for strong net neutrality rules.

“From net neutrality to the T-Mobile/Sprint merger, the states are stepping up where the Trump Administration has failed to protect internet users," said Joshua Stager, senior counsel for New America's Open Technology Institute. "It’s been two years since the FCC repealed net neutrality, and we need those rules restored. We welcome Governor Cuomo’s effort to save net neutrality in New York.”

"Tens of millions of people from across the political spectrum have spoken out in support of net neutrality, the basic principle that protects free expression and fairness on the Internet," said Fight for the Future Deputy Director Even Greer. "It’s encouraging to see New York state following the lead of California in pushing for strong protections at the state level. But we’ll need to see the bill text. We'll be prepared to mobilize massive public pressure to fight for the strongest legislation possible, and ensure that there are no loopholes for ISPs to abuse."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.