(BIVN) – Governor David Ige signed an Executive Order Monday, requiring internet service providers with State contracts to abide by net neutrality rules.
Last month, 21 House members wrote a letter to the Governor asking him to take action to protect Hawaii residents and businesses from excessive internet fees and to ensure open access to the internet. They provided suggested language from recent orders coming out of Montana and New York.
“An open internet is critically important to our people and our economy, connecting us to the rest of the world, increasing our commerce, fostering innovation, and adding to our economic growth. I have worked with my cabinet members, members of the House and other stakeholders to protect the integrity of this critical resource,” said Gov. Ige.
“Net neutrality protects Hawaii residents from unnecessary fee increases from internet and cable service providers and protects small businesses and internet entrepreneurs who depend on unrestricted access to information to create jobs using new technologies,” Saiki said.
The issue has been debated on the national stage in recent months, as the Federal Communications Commission, chaired by Ajit Pai, moved to rescind net neutrality rules. Hawaii’s congressional delegation has pushed back
The State House provided this summary:
In December 2017, the United States Federal Communications Commission dismantled the previously existing net neutrality rules governing broadband internet service providers such as Spectrum and Hawaiian Telcom. Although the regulations requiring net neutrality have only been in effect since 2015, net neutrality was the position of the federal government for more than a decade. The 2015 rules required internet service providers to treat all websites equally. Internet service providers could not use their power over the internet infrastructure to restrict access to certain information by blocking content or altering the speed that specific information could be uploaded or downloaded.
The end of net neutrality gives rise to legitimate concerns. First, internet service providers will be able to prioritize their profit-seeking interests over individuals’ choices regarding the type of information to consume. Second, internet service providers may be able to manipulate individuals’ political, social, and economic decision-making by shaping the information that is disseminated for public consumption. Third, internet service providers, with their significant leverage as information gate-keepers, may be able to force higher prices upon both content creators and content consumers in exchange for the transmittal of information.
At the state legislature, House Bill 1995 is making its way through committee. The proposed law regulates broadband internet service providers to ensure a free and open Internet, and establishes a task force to examine the costs and benefits of creating a state-owned public utility company to provide broadband internet service.
The bill was heard in the House Intrastate Commerce Committee on January 31. The governor’s executive order took effect Monday.