Montana Governor Signs Order to Force Net Neutrality


But Mr. Bullock and some public interest advocates who have advised him argue that the state has wide latitude to set conditions to any contracts with the government — one of the biggest customers in most cities and states — to get around the F.C.C.’s restrictions.

“If you want to do business with Montana, there are standards on net neutrality you will have to follow,” Mr. Bullock said.

The idea is similar to bills in New York and Rhode Island that are also trying to use government contracts to regulate the practices of internet service providers. Those efforts are proceeding slowly, along with multiple lawsuits filed last week by more than 20 state attorneys general and public interest groups.

Broadband providers say they will have difficulty following different state laws related to net neutrality. Various trade groups said they were watching Montana’s action and other state bills and were considering lawsuits.

“Following patchwork of legislation or regulation is costly and makes it even harder to invest in networks,” said Matt Polka, president of the American Cable Association, a lobbying group for small- and midsize broadband providers.

Mr. Bullock, a Democrat, said the executive order was the fastest and surest way to bring back net neutrality rules and to head off any decisions by internet service providers to begin throttling or charging websites more to reach consumers.

“There is a long history of government using its procurement power to get companies to adopt requirements, and this is no different,” said Travis LeBlanc, an enforcement chief for the F.C.C. during the Obama administration. “This action by Governor Bullock will provide immediate relief.”

Though the order applies only to Montana, it could have a spillover effect, as seen with auto emissions rules and cybersecurity notification laws that began in a few states but eventually became national standards.

“This is simple plug and play for other states to do as well,” Mr. Bullock said.

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