Haslam: No executive order to restore net neutrality in TN (but there’s a bill)

Gov. Bill Haslam is spurning request from Democratic state legislators that he join some other governor in issuing an executive order to preserve “net neutrality,” reports the Nashville Post. Rep. John Ray Clemmons of Nashville and Sen. Lee Harris of Memphis wrote him a letter last week with the request, which could have restored regulations repealed by the Federal Communications Commission.

“I have gotten their letter,” Haslam said of the request… “I don’t know that that’s an appropriate topic for an executive order, so I probably wouldn’t be counting on that,” Haslam said.

The comments come two days after national protests, both online and in person, to push Congress into action. Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper is co-sponsoring a new effort in the House to ensure net neutrality — i.e., to prevent internet service providers from slowing down or discriminating against different types of internet content. A similar effort in the Senate is one vote shy of passage.

However, Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who is also running for Senate, has introduced her own legislation, “The Open Internet Preservation Act.”

“The 2015 net neutrality order that ended up being passed was really government control of the internet, and my legislation is the free and open internet. What that does is to make sure that there is no blocking and no throttling. And those are the provisions that people want to see preserved,” Blackburn told the Post last week. When we pointed out that the FCC’s actions in December allow internet service providers to make the internet less free and open, Blackburn denied it.

Note: Text of the Clemmons/Harris letter is HERE. The two lawmakers also have filed a net neutrality bill (HB2253) that is on the agenda for a meeting of the House Business and Utilities Subcommittee this week. Excerpt from a Nashville Ledger report on the measure:

(T)he legislation would enable the state and individual consumers to take legal action against internet providers if they create levels of service by charging consumers more for certain websites, service speeds or information.

…The Clemmons/Harris bill would restrict state and local governments from contracting with internet service providers that don’t comply with net neutrality.

The Tennessee Public Utility Commission would set rules for meeting net neutrality and anyone “injured by a violation” would be able to file a complaint through the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. The commission also would be authorized to issue cease and desist orders as well as civil penalties of $2,000.

More than 20 states have sued the federal government already over the Federal Communications Commission’s December vote to scrap regulations prohibiting internet providers from blocking website access or making consumers pay more for quicker service and content. The decision reversed a 2015 move approved during the Obama administration and aligns with the philosophies of the Trump administration and new FCC chairman who contend deregulation will bolster new ideas and the economic landscape, according to reports.

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