Montana Governor’s Executive Order Would Force Net Neutrality

Montana Governor’s Executive Order Would Force Net Neutrality


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Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana said he expected to sign an executive order on Monday that will declare that any internet service provider doing business with the state cannot block or charge more for faster delivery of websites.

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Thom Bridge/Independent Record, via Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Most efforts underway to restore so-called net neutrality face big obstacles and would take many months, if not years, to succeed.

But in Montana, the governor plans to use the stroke of a pen to bring the rules to broad parts of his state.

Through an executive order, Gov. Steve Bullock will declare that any internet service provider with a state government contract cannot block or charge more for faster delivery of websites, two core aspects of net neutrality, to any customer in the state. Governor Bullock said in an interview that he expected to sign the order on Monday.

Many major landline and mobile broadband providers, including Charter, CenturyLink, AT&T and Verizon, hold government contracts in the state. The new requirements would apply to new and renewed contracts signed after July 1, 2018.

The action, the first of its kind by a governor, could face legal challenges.

In December, the Federal Communications Commission rolled back rules meant to protect a free and open internet. The new rules say that states cannot create net neutrality laws. The agency did not respond to a request for comment about the potential Montana action.

But Mr. Bullock and some public interest advocates who have advised him argue that the state has wide latitude to set conditions to any contracts with the government — one of the biggest customers in most cities and states — to get around the F.C.C.’s restrictions.

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