Sponsors of the Tennessee Net Neutrality and Internet Consumer Protection Act from l-r, Rep. Dwayne Thompson (D-Memphis), Sen. Lee Harris (D-Memphis), and Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville)

By Peter White

NASHVILLE, TN –State Representative John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) and State Senator Lee Harris (D-Memphis) have introduced a consumer protection bill to

protect Net Neutrality in Tennessee. The “Tennessee Net Neutrality and Internet Consumer Protection Act” imposes a one-year moratorium on companies who violate the act’s provisions and fines of $2,000 per day when a violation occurs.

“Our legislation will protect consumers, ensure equal access to information, foster opportunity for innovation, and ensure a level playing field for our startup community,” said Clemmons.

Clemmons consulted with legislators in California and crafted the bill after seeing similar bills from Nebraska and Washington.

“The Internet is almost a public utility at this point. Everyone deserves equal and open access,” said Sen. Lee Harris.

In Washington D.C, the Federal Communications Commission CC voted in December to deregulate the broadband market that will allow big Internet providers freedom to block or throttle users’ access to content, charge companies to deliver traffic to their sites, and become gatekeepers of services like mobile payment services and cable phone service from third parties.

“The vote gives telecommunications companies virtually unfettered power over what services and websites you can access over the Internet and at what price,” said Harris.

By defining broadband as an “information service” rather than a “telecommunications service” the FCC has opened the door to price gouging, usage caps, and overage fees. Previously, net neutrality rules established in 2015 prohibited Internet Service Providers from such behavior.

In Washington, all 47 Senate Democrats are co-sponsoring a resolution of disapproval to void the FFC’s 3-2 vote overturning Net Neutrality rules. They have  two independents and one Republican voting with them. That is 50 votes. They need 51. President Trump would have to sign the bill if it passes.

“Private industry should not have the power to own information. The Internet is the main source of information in the 21st Century and thus, the FCC decision to give this power to telecoms in essence gives them power over information,” said Harris.

“No company, no industry should have full power over information. In light of the decision of the Trump FCC we have filed this bill,” he added.

Twenty-two State Attorneys General filed suit against the FCC last month charging the FCC’s sweeping changes were “arbitrary and capricious”. They were joined by NGOs Free Press, PublicKnowledge, and New America’s Open Technology Institute.

“An open internet – and the free exchange of ideas it allows – is critical to our democratic process,” said Attorney General Schneiderman of New York.

The court fight will take months. If the Tennessee broadband act passes, it will take effect July, 2018.


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