Following up on a February executive order by Governor Phil Murphy, an Assembly panel has moved a package of legislation designed to preserve net neutrality for New Jersey residents. The Science, Innovation and Technology Committee, led by physicist Andrew Zwicker (D-Mercer) advanced three bills that Internet Service Providers treat all Internet traffic equally and forbidding them from charging extra for different types of traffic or content or creating “fast lane” for content providers who pay more for it.
Net neutrality was the norm for federal regulations until December, when the FCC voted to end the practice. Since then, numerous states have imposed their own versions of net neutrality.
Net neutrality advocates fear that ISPs, which effectively hold local monopolies or duopolies on providing Internet service, will use their newfound leeway to charge extra for different types of Internet content. For example, they could tack on an extra charge for using Netflix, which competes with video on demand provided by cable companies, or deliberately slow it down, while speeding up the service of a competitor that paid the provider extra for the privilege.
Murphy’s order directed the state government to only do business with ISPs that respect net neutrality.
Service providers such as Comcast and Verizon opposed the bill, arguing that states are prohibited from regulating the Internet. The bills do not directly regulate the internet, but are directions to the state’s Board of Public Utilities, which regulates telecommunications infrastructure and has the power to award or deny permission to lay cable and provide services.