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Washington Becomes First State to Approve Net-neutrality Rules

“We know that when D.C. fails to act, Washington state has to do so,”

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Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks after signing a bill, March 5, 2018, in Olympia, Washington, that makes Washington the first state to set up its own net-neutrality requirements in response to the FCC's recent repeal of Obama-era rules. VOA

Washington became the first state Monday to set up its own net-neutrality requirements after U.S. regulators repealed Obama-era rules that banned internet providers from blocking content or impairing traffic.

“We know that when D.C. fails to act, Washington state has to do so,” Gov. Jay Inslee said before signing the measure that lawmakers passed with bipartisan support. “We know how important this is.”

The Federal Communications Commission voted in December to gut U.S. rules that meant to prevent broadband companies such as Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon from exercising more control over what people watch and see on the internet.

ALSO READ: What will be the Fate of Net Neutrality after Being Repealed?

Because the FCC prohibited state laws from contradicting its decision, opponents of the Washington law have said it would lead to lawsuits.

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Inslee said he was confident of its legality, saying “the states have a full right to protect their citizens.” Pixabay

Oregon law has not been signed

The new law also requires internet providers to disclose information about their management practices, performance, and commercial terms. Violations would be enforceable under the state’s Consumer Protection Act.

While several states introduced similar measures this year seeking to protect net neutrality, only Oregon and Washington passed bills. But Oregon’s measure wouldn’t put any new requirements on internet providers.

It would stop state agencies from buying internet service from any company that blocks or prioritizes specific content or apps, starting in 2019. It’s unclear when Oregon’s measure would be signed into law.

Washington state was among more than 20 states and the District of Columbia that sued in January to try and block the FCC’s action. There are also efforts by Democrats to undo the move in Congress.

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Governors in five states — Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Montana, and Vermont — have signed executive orders related to net-neutrality issues, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Pixabay

ALSO READ: Zuckerberg in favor of 100 percent net neutrality

Expect new rules by mid-June

Big telecom companies have said net neutrality rules could undermine investment in broadband and introduce uncertainty about what are acceptable business practices. Net-neutrality advocates say the FCC decision would harm innovation and make it harder for the government to crack down on internet providers who act against consumer interests.

The FCC’s new rules are not expected to go into effect until later this spring. Washington’s law will take effect mid-June.

Messages left with the Broadband Communications Association of Washington, which opposed the bill, were not immediately returned. (VOA)

Next Story

Measles Outbreak Confirmed In The U.S. Pacific Northwest

Before the vaccine was introduced in 1963, the disease was blamed for an estimated 400 to 500 deaths and 48,000 hospitalizations each year, according to the CDC.

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A 1-year-old child is given the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine in Northridge, Calif., Jan. 29, 2015. VOA

Officials in the Pacific Northwest state of Washington have declared a measles outbreak after at least 22 people, including 20 children, have become infected with the disease since Jan. 1.

“It’s an outbreak because generally the way we define an outbreak is when you have more observed cases than expected cases. And generally with measles, the expected number is zero,” Dr. Alan Melnick with Clark County Public Health told KOIN6 TV in Portland, Oregon, last week. “You know, we have a very effective vaccine for measles. Two shots are 97 percent effective. We really shouldn’t be seeing measles.”

The outbreak comes on the heels of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) releasing data for 2018 earlier this month. The CDC said the 349 reported cases in 26 states and the District of Columbia made 2018 the second worse year for measles since 2000, when the disease was eliminated in the U.S. It said 2014 was the worst year, with a reported 667 cases.

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A nurse holds a vial of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine at Boston Children’s Hospital in Boston, Feb. 26, 2015. VOA

The report said some of the cases were related to unvaccinated people in Orthodox Jewish communities, as well as travelers who became infected after visiting Israel, Italy, France and Britain, where major outbreaks are occurring. According to the CDC, an outbreak is defined as three or more linked cases.

The report also said 81 of the 349 cases were in people who traveled to the United States from other countries.

Clark County officials said a person infected with measles attended a Portland Trail Blazers National Basketball Association (NBA) game last week in Portland, Oregon, and contagious people visited other venues, such as the Portland airport, and local hospitals, stores and restaurants. Clark County is about a half-hour from Portland, causing officials to worry the disease may spread across the two-state region.

Global increases

Eighteen states, including Oregon and Washington, allow families to opt out of vaccines based on philosophical beliefs.

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A health worker vaccinates a toddler against measles in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. VOA

While considered eliminated in the U.S., measles is common in other parts of the world, specifically Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa, according to world health officials.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) also reported significant increases in cases from various countries in 2018.

Also Read: Women Hit Especially Hard In Congo’s Worst Ebola Outbreak

Measles is a highly contagious viral illness that was thought to have been eradicated in the United States in 2000. Its symptoms, which include fever, runny nose and a skin rash, appear about 10 to 14 days after exposure to the virus. The infection occurs in stages over a period of two to three weeks, the CDC reports.

Before the vaccine was introduced in 1963, the disease was blamed for an estimated 400 to 500 deaths and 48,000 hospitalizations each year, according to the CDC. (VOA)