Seeking to protect consumers and ensure free speech across Illinois, Illinois State Rep. Ann Williams filed House Bill 4819, the Broadband Procurement and Disclosure Act. The measure is designed to ensure net neutrality across Illinois. This proposed legislation is supported by the ACLU of Illinois.

Net neutrality requires internet service providers (ISPs) to treat all data equally by not discriminating based on user or content, without manipulating transmitted data, or slowing down the speed at which the data is transferred. In short, net neutrality rules are what keep the Internet open, fair, and free, and a powerful tool for the open exchange of ideas and information Illinois residents have come to expect. 

HB 4819 became necessary after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to dismantle net neutrality this past December, which opens the door for ISPs to control the content their customers access on the Internet, how fast they access that content, and how much customers have to pay to access certain types of content. HB 4819 works to restore these safeguards in Illinois by requiring all ISPs who do business with state agencies and organizations to commit to honoring net neutrality principles for all customers in Illinois, and to disclose in detail practices and commercial terms relating to blocking, throttling, or paid prioritization.

“Today, an open internet has never been more necessary or vital. If the FCC is going to choose to move us backward, Illinois will push forward in order to protect net neutrality and keep companies responsible and transparent to their consumers. I am proud to sponsor this legislation and look forward to building a statewide coalition to ensure its passage,” said State Rep. Ann Williams.

Preserving net neutrality is essential because Illinoisans receive internet access from only a handful of telecommunications giants — indeed, nearly 50 million American households have only one high-speed ISP in their area to choose from. There have already been many examples of ISPs discriminating or slowing down internet traffic based on content.  Without net neutrality, ISPs are free to block content to their customers under the terms and conditions of user agreements, may charge customers different amounts for accessing the same websites and data, and may slow down internet speeds when customers access content from ISP competitors.

“Net neutrality is about free speech. Without equal access to the internet, we lose our rights to be heard and to hear others. It’s important that internet providers not be allowed to play favorites because they disagree with the message being delivered or want to charge more money for faster delivery. The ACLU of Illinois is committed to continuing our work with Representative Williams to to protect equal access online,” said Khadine Bennett, Advocacy and Intergovernmental Affairs Director, ACLU of Illinois.