Seeking to protect Illinoisans’ access to an open internet, a coalition of elected officials and public interest organizations gathered to support House Bill 4819, the Broadband Procurement and Disclosure Act. The measure is designed to ensure net neutrality safeguards across Illinois by requiring internet service providers (ISPs) to treat data that travels over their broadband networks fairly, without improper discrimination in favor of particular applications, websites or services.

HB 4819 became necessary after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to dismantle the net neutrality framework, 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.
 
“In Illinois, the clock is ticking on preserving net neutrality. As the federal rules are set to expire on April 23, more than half of our country’s state governments are moving to protect their citizens within this new landscape. Illinois cannot be left behind, and this is why we need to pass House Bill 4819 as soon as possible,” said State Rep. Ann Williams.
 
“Net neutrality rules are what keep the internet open, fair, and free. There have already been many examples of ISPs discriminating or slowing down internet traffic based on content and prices. If Illinois does not act soon - before these rules are set expire - Illinoisans could start losing their access to their internet and see the quality of their access depend on how much money they have. We cannot let this happen,” said State Senator Daniel Biss.
 
With HB 4819, Illinois joins legislators and leaders in a majority of states, who have introduced more than 60 bills and five executive orders requiring ISPs to comply with net neutrality principles (Washington state passed the first such law on March 5). More states are expected to take action on net neutrality as April 23 approaches.
 
“HB 4819 is about free speech. Access to getting and sharing information on an open internet should not depend on commercial interests or deals struck in corporate boardrooms, it should be available to all voices – equally,” said Khadine Bennett, Advocacy and Intergovernmental Affairs Director, ACLU of Illinois.
 
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. Moreover, there have already been many numerous examples of ISPs discriminating or slowing down internet traffic based on content in order to advance some commercial interest.  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.
 
“Internet neutrality is critical to minority communities and women who have built culturally significant digital neighborhoods and platforms to provide trusted spaces where they share information, ideas, products and services critical to their lives. To women and black and brown communities, these Internet neighborhoods have become digital main streets of economic opportunity. The attack on Internet neutrality opens the door for one more layer of marginalization and discrimination that threaten economic opportunities for minorities and women,” said Lauren Tucker, Indivisible Chicago.
 
For more information on HB 4819, please click here.
 
For a full list of bill sponsors, please click here.
 
What Is Net Neutrality?
 
Net neutrality refers to the set of principles that require 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. Net neutrality rules are what ensure the internet stays open, fair, free, and a powerful tool for the open exchange of ideas and information Illinois residents have come to expect.  
 
Without safeguards to ensure that ISPs are not blocking, throttling, or prioritizing paid content, we soon will face changes in the way we access the internet that will threaten our freedom of speech, deepen existing inequalities in our society, and further undermine (the already weak) competition among ISPs.  
 

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