N.Y. Governor Mandates Net Neutrality as AT&T Seeks 'Internet Bill of Rights'

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ALBANY, N.Y. – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed an order that mandates broadband companies doing business in the state must abide by some key net neutrality rules. The order takes effect March 1 and prohibits carriers that contract with state agencies from blocking, throttling, or prioritizing content or applications, and from charging consumers “different or higher rates to access specific types of content or applications.”

California, Nebraska, Washington, and Massachusetts are considering passing their own versions of net neutrality legislation.

Cuomo said the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) vote in December to repeal net neutrality rules was “dangerous” and “goes against the core values of our democracy.” He vowed that New York will do “everything in our power to protect net neutrality and the free exchange of ideas.” 

AT&T, Verizon, and Frontier are among the carriers with current contracts in New York.

Meanwhile, AT&T took out full-page ads in several newspapers asking Congress to settle the internet freedom debate by passing a federal net neutrality law, a so-called “Internet Bill of Rights.”

In the ad, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said his company wants clarity because it has suffered from regulatory whiplash. Various presidential administrations and government agencies have pursued wildly differing internet policies over the past decade. 

“It is time for Congress to end the debate once and for all, by writing new laws that govern the internet and protect consumers,” Stephenson wrote. 

He wants a law that guarantees net neutrality, an open internet, and privacy protection for customers – a law that applies equally to all internet companies such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter

Net neutrality advocates were quick to point out some of the most glaring problems with AT&T’s public call for the so-called Bill of Rights.

“In the long run, a permanent law must do much more than what AT&T calls for,” Public Knowledge Vice President Chris Lewis stated. “It must not only protect net neutrality, but also empower the FCC to protect other critical consumer protections that many Americans expect and take for granted, until they are gone.”

Free Press Action Fund Policy Director Matt Wood added in a statement that AT&T’s “head fake toward one-size-fits-all rules for all websites and content providers should fool no one.”

Wood continued: “No matter how much it wants to pretend otherwise, when a company like AT&T connects you to the internet, that’s not the same thing as the information and content you find online. ISPs aren’t like newspapers, movie studios, or even social media platforms that produce and curate information for their users.”