ALBANY — Gov. Cuomo on Wednesday issued an executive order designed to protect net neutrality in New York.
Cuomo’s order specifies that any internet service providers wanting to do business with the state government must first agree to adhere to net neutrality principles.
“With this executive order, we reaffirm our commitment to freedom and democracy and help ensure that the internet remains free and open to all,” he said.
Cuomo’s directive comes weeks after the Federal Communication Commission in December did away with net neutrality regulations enacted in 2015 under then-President Barack Obama that barred internet service providers from blocking or slowing Web traffic.
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Cuomo’s executive order mirrors one put out Monday by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a fellow Democrat.
“Net neutrality, in its essence, ensures everyone who pays for the internet has equal access to the whole internet,” Cuomo said in an email to supporters hours after announcing the executive order. “Without it, there is nothing to stop Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from creating ‘fast and slow lanes’ on the internet, favoring content they have a financial stake in over content they do not profit from.”
Cuomo’s office said there are at least a dozen internet service providers, including Spectrum, Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T that have contracts with the state.
The U.S. Telecom Association, which is an internet service provider trade organization, did not respond for a request for comment.
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In supporting the elimination of net neutrality regulations, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called the internet “the greatest free-market innovation in history” and argued “there was no problem to solve” when the rules were put in place in 2015.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and 22 other state attorneys general last week filed a lawsuit to block the FCC’s action.
On Wednesday, Schneiderman said the U.S. Government Accountability Office agreed to investigate potential fraud in the FCC rulemaking process.
An ongoing probe by Schneiderman has found that the identities of at least 2 million Americans were fraudulently used in net neutrality comments submitted to the FCC.
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“The FCC’s decision to move ahead with its vote last month — despite widespread evidence of corruption — made a mockery of our public comment process and rewarded those who perpetrated fraud in order to advance their own agenda,” Schneiderman said. “New Yorkers, and all Americans, deserve to know what happened, who was behind it, and how the federal government will prevent it from happening again.”
Meanwhile, the city’s tech industry released a statement praising Cuomo’s executive order.
“While the FCC doesn’t recognize that startups and small businesses rely on a free and open internet to succeed, it is clear Governor Cuomo does,” said Julie Samuels, executive director of Tech:NYC.
Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy (D-Albany) this week called for passage of a bill she is sponsoring that effectively does what Cuomo has ordered.
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She called for its passage to ensure the rules can’t be undone by a future administration.
“Net neutrality keeps the internet free and open — which is critical to New York’s economy. I’m pleased to see the Governor adopt these protections in New York,” Fahy said. “I look forward to working with the Governor to push my legislation in the Assembly to ensure that net neutrality is permanently enshrined in statute in New York.”
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GLENN BLAIN, KENNETH LOVETT