HELENA – Gov. Steve Bullock has signed an executive order requiring internet service providers to commit to net neutrality if they want to receive state contracts.
Bullock made the announcement Monday morning, in front of teacher Buffy Smith’s computer science class at Helena High School.
“I think Montanans actually expect and rely on the traditional principle that internet companies won’t pick and choose what content we see,” he said.
The order requires that, by July, any company that gets an internet or data contract from the state must commit to never block or slow down lawful content or services, or give favorable treatment to some content in exchange for payments. It also requires them to publicly disclose information about their network practices to their Montana customers.
“Montanans and the country can’t wait for Congress to act,” said Bullock.
Last month, the Federal Communications Commission repealed Obama-administration rules that gave the agency greater oversight on internet providers. Those rules prohibited blocking certain content or charging content providers extra for faster service. Opponents said the regulations were unnecessary and discouraged innovation.
After the FCC’s decision, a number of internet providers immediately made statements promising to continue following net neutrality principles.
“What we’re asking now is to make sure that, more than just statements, that they will commit to that,” Bullock said.
Bullock said the FCC’s ruling preempts individual states from making their own net neutrality regulations. But he said he’s confident his action will hold up to any challenges, because the state government is simply using its authority to decide what companies it does business with.
Other states, including Washington, have announced executive orders to encourage companies to maintain net neutrality, but Bullock’s office believes Montana is one of the first to actually require companies with state contracts to comply. He urged leaders from other states to follow this framework.
“We can be assured that even if Washington, D.C., doesn’t respond, these United States certainly will,” Bullock said.