Model net neutrality rule for municipalities

Jeff sez, "Recently, Boing Boing shared our post suggesting that local communities could take inspiration from Pittsburgh's City Council ban on fracking and make net neutrality law, instead of waiting for Congress. Working with CELDF, the author of the Pittsburgh law, Envision Seattle has authored a model ordinance to legislate Net Neutrality . This post contains the first draft of the model net neutrality ordinance which we will ask the Seattle City Council to pass. We encourage other communities to study the ordinance and adopt it in their own jurisdictions. Our ordinance is meant to be used as a template for municipalities around the U.S. and globally as a starting point in codifying their right to a free and open Internet. p.s. Today, the Netherlands became the first European country to make Net Neutrality law."
The Seattle City Council and the people of Seattle find that access to the broadband internet creates opportunity for more direct civic engagement and increased educational attainment and free speech; and that such access enables people to more fully participate in a democratic process. To date, the network design principles fostering the development of the broadband internet - an end-to-end design, layered architecture, and open standards - promote innovation at the edge of the network and gives end users choice and control of their online activities.

The City Council and the people of Seattle find that those network design principles have led to the network neutrality of the internet, where there are no paid-for premium fast lanes and best effort slow lanes. We recognize that technologies now allow network operators to distinguish between different classes of internet traffic, to offer different qualities-of-service, and to charge different prices to each class of internet traffic. We also recognize that broadband internet access service providers have an economic interest to discriminate in favor of their own or affiliated services, content, and applications, and against other providers of such services, content, and applications.

Model Net Neutrality Ordinance for Seattle (Thanks, Jeff!)

(Image: Net Neutrality News Tag Cloud, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from seanweigoldferguson's photostream)


  1. Holy crap, City Council did something other than squabble with Mayor Steelerstahl and get huffy about electronic billboards? This is what I get for ignoring what passes for local “news,” I guess. Rob, you gotta keep me up to speed on this kind of stuff. :-)

  2. No chance of working in the US. The FCC has ultimate authority over information services, and the courts have consistently ruled such when non-federal governments have attempted to take control.

    Interesting that this is coming out of Seattle. Seattle, where I live, has erratically uneven availability of broadband. I get 15 to 25 Mbps for about $60/month at home (with no cable TV) from Comcast, and for slightly more at my office. However, not far from my house and my office, thousands of households can get less than 1 Mbps from Qwest over DSL and 1 Mbps (and inconsistent) from Comcast’s competitor Broadstripe, which has the franchise for a fraction of the city.

    In discussions with various folks in Seattle and beyond, include our progressive CTO Bill Schrier, who wants a municipally backed, funded, and operated fiber-to-the-home network built, local authorities have their hands tied in addressing issues related to bits traveling as information, which is all broadband.

    I do like the statement of purpose. But the only hope is federal legislation to set national policy.

  3. I fucking love the Netherlands. They just seem to have the right idea.

    Only grown up country I’m actually aware of; all the others just want financial control of their citizens and war. I mean I know they’re not ‘perfect’, but to be honest, they’re close enough for me.

  4. Glenn, I’m paraphrasing comments from CELDF’s ExDir Thomas Linzey in an exchange he had with Cory last month:

    Just like the dozen other issues that we work on, it’s about giving up hope that Congress is going to do the right thing, or State legislatures are going to do the right thing; and beginning to craft a structure of “rights” at the municipal level that challenges the hegemony exercised by those other levels of government; and then using the combined force of that municipal strength to push upwards against those higher levels of government to get the change that we want and need.

    The organizing is about turning away from traditional activism (which is mired in letter writing campaigns and lowest common denominator federal and state legislation) and dipping our hands into a new activism in which the grassroots forces themselves begin to craft and model rights-based laws which then stitch together to change state constitutions, and eventually, to change the framework of the federal constitution itself. It’s a realization that the only way substantive change is going to happen – especially that change that runs counter to the interests of a relatively small handful of corporations – is a revolt from the bottom, from the municipal level.

    As Jeff relayed, we have served as legal counsel to a couple of hundred groups and municipal governments that have begun to make this change, in VA, MD, PA, ME, NH, and MA; and have been working in communities on the West Coast for the past three years to get stuff moving.

    It’s promising and hopeful work involving people who have given up on higher levels of government doing what’s needed; who are refocusing themselves on change that matters at the local level.

    FCC decisions (and congressional ones as the authority for the regulatory activities of the FCC) actually violate certain rights that we hold as people, and the right to govern our own communities as an element of the right to community and local self-government. If we have a “right to internet access” or a “right to communicate” via these pathways, there are certain actions that can be taken by government which infringe on those rights. In our view, it’s up to us to create these rights frameworks, and then enforce them at higher levels.

    There are many things that currently prevent us from engaging in this new type of activism – one is preemption (both at the federal and state level); Dillon’s Rule (the flip side of preemption which treats municipalities as children compared to the state “parent”), and corporate “rights” (that activism such as this violates corporate constitutionally embedded rights, including bill of rights and 14th amendment protections, as well as commerce clause “rights” under the constitution). Our organizing designs municipal laws to frontally challenge each of those impediments.

    On the issue of segregation, our ordinances actually expand rights-frameworks; so example, some of the ordinances adopted in rural communities borrow from UN materials to expand rights for communities and people; while reasserting and validating federal and state bill of rights protections. So, it isn’t about a ‘race to the bottom’, but a ‘race to the top’ – a new civil rights movement which expands and accelerates rights protections which then come into fundamental conflict with rights claimed by corporations and higher units of government.

    It all comes down to what our “theory of change” looks like – whether it’s mired in traditional activism (which from an environmental perspective, has been a disaster – things are worse now than forty years ago, for example), or whether change happens like the abolitionists and suffragists knew that it did – from grassroots activism that refuses to follow existing law, and which creates a new framework of law which eventually is driven up the state and federal ladders. It’s all about whether we can get what we want and need from the system as presently constituted.

    So, what would it look like if Seattle adopted a local bill of rights which, as one of its provisions, declared that people had a “right to equal access to information”, backed up by provisions which refused to recognize corporate constitutional rights in Seattle for data companies? Amazingly as it sounds, about two dozen communities in the U.S. have now adopted local laws stripping certain corporations of constitutional “Rights” within their jurisdictions, because those “rights” prevent people from attaining their goals for sustainability. To us, it’s all about doing activism that dismantles that fundamental structure which is in place which stops us from moving towards the world that we want and need.

  5. Lovely phrase: “We recognize that technologies now allow network operators to distinguish between different classes of internet traffic, to offer different qualities-of-service, and to charge different prices to each class of internet traffic.”

    Add this: “We just don’t understand networking well enough to appreciate why this is a good and proper thing to do because we’re stuck in past, or worse, in some romantic and counter-factual version of the past. But why worry about facts, just break it all and listen to how loud we whine then…”

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