House OKs bill on net neutrality, but Senate odds slim

Kerry Donovan

DENVER — The Colorado House approved a bill Tuesday that is designed, at least in part, to reverse last year's Federal Communications Commission ruling on net neutrality rules, making Colorado one of more than two dozen states considering such measures.

Those federal rules barred internet providers from blocking or slowing internet service, or charging more for faster speeds to access a competitor's service.

While the states' proposals vary in strictness in regulating internet providers, Colorado's bill is limited only to those that receive government grants to expand broadband service, said Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, who introduced the bill with Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, and Rep. Chris Hansen, D-Denver.

Regardless, House Bill 1312 didn't receive much love from House Republicans on Tuesday, all of whom voted against it. As a result, it isn't expected to go far when it gets to the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans.

"Telecom is not supportive of it, and telecom has a high level of success here," Donovan said. "These companies say, 'We're not going to do this (slow internet speeds),' but then they seem to be concerned with a bill that supposedly lines up with what they say they aren't going to do."

Since December when appointees by President Donald Trump on the FCC reversed rules put in place during President Barack Obama's administration, 66 bills have been introduced in 29 mostly blue states seeking to reverse that change, according to the Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures. To date, only two — Washington and Oregon — have signed such bills into law.

Democratic governors in five other states approved it by executive order, but 22 states, including two red states, did file a case in the U.S. Court of Appeals challenging the FCC rule change.

Those bills — all but one of which were introduced by Democratic lawmakers — have either failed or are pending, More than a dozen of them aren't expected to pass because they are in state legislatures dominated by Republicans.

Under the Colorado bill, any internet provider that does the following things would have to refund to the state any grant money it won over the prior two years:

■ Blocks lawful content, applications, services or devices.

■ Engages in prioritization pricing.

■ Regulates network traffic by throttling, impairing or degrading bandwidth.

■ Hiding or not revealing its network management practices.

The bill has support from only a few entities, such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Common Cause.

But its list of opponents is extensive. They include all of the major telecommunications companies, such as CenturyLink, Verizon, Charter and AT&T. Several other conservative business groups and associations oppose it, too, such as the Colorado Competitive Council, the Colorado Cable Television Association and the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.

The bill is headed to the Senate, but it is not yet known in which committee it will be heard.