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The bill, awaiting the governor's signature, would prevent non-neutral service providers from using taxpayer money.
Colorado is poised to pass its own net-neutrality law, even as members of Congress seem unlikely to agree on a federal policy.
Both chambers of the state’s General Assembly passed the bill along party lines, with Democrats voting in favor of the measure and Republicans united against it. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, has said he supports the legislation and is expected to sign it.
As written, the bill prevents non-neutral internet service providers from tapping into public funds for broadband expansion and other measures. Internet companies that block lawful content or applications, prioritize paid content, throttle bandwidth or fail to provide transparency regarding network management practices have to refund state grant money they’ve received in the past two years and forfeit eligibility for future funds.
Most providers in the state are already abiding by those rules, advocates said. Opponents of the bill said they favored net-neutrality practices but objected to imposing a “state mandate” on them.
“Given the limited instances of alleged net neutrality violations over the 20-plus year history of the internet—none of which appear to have happened in Colorado, to the best of my knowledge—even this relatively modest bill seems to be an overreaction,” Nick Colglazier, head of the business group Colorado Competitive Council, told senators, according to the Denver Post.
The legislation comes as federal lawmakers continue their own negotiations on net neutrality policy. The Federal Communications Commission favored net neutrality under President Obama but has shifted course under President Trump.
The Democratic-led House on Wednesday passed a proposal to restore the Obama-era rules. When asked about the idea on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the legislation is "dead on arrival" in his chamber, which is controlled by Republicans. The White House on Monday also indicated that Trump is likely to veto the bill if it does pass both the House and Senate.
Colorado’s bill doesn’t affect federal policy, but the legislation could still encounter roadblocks from the Trump administration. California passed its own net-neutrality law last year but delayed enforcing it after the U.S. Department of Justice and several trade groups challenged the measure.
Editor's note: This story was changed after publication to update the status of federal net neutrality legislation.
Kate Elizabeth Queram is a Staff Correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.