3 Middle School Girls Fought To Protect Net Neutrality In Oregon. They Won.

"It is a privilege to have such a meaningful and significant signing take place at Mt. Tabor Middle School."

In February, a group of three middle school students testified in front of Oregon's House Committee on Rules to support a net neutrality bill. On Monday, the state made that bill into law. 

The bill was signed by Gov. Kate Brown at Mt. Tabor Middle School in Portland, Oregon, where the students attend school. Gov. Brown signed the bill after the students helped bring attention and public support for the bill over the last few months.

"It is a privilege to have such a meaningful and significant signing take place at Mt. Tabor Middle School," Luca, a 12-year-old who helped push the bill, said at the signing ceremony. "We'd like to recognize the people across the nation who are working to restore net neutrality in America. These are everyday Americans some of the most influential politicians, organizations, and companies in the country."

From left to right, Athena, Lola, Gov. Brown and Luca. 
From left to right, Athena, Lola, Gov. Brown and Luca.  Portland Public Schools

House Bill 4155 was drafted to guarantee Oregon residents get the same protections from net neutrality that existed before the Federal Communications Commission ended them in December of 2017. The law makes it illegal for state agencies to buy Internet service from ISPs that don't abide by net neutrality rules which were in place before December. In other words, if an ISP has so-called "fast lanes" or is blocking content from certain websites, it will be illegal for a state body to work with them.

Gov. Brown's office did not immediately respond to A Plus' request for comment.

Ars Technica reported that ISPs are likely to sue Oregon in order to strike the bill down, but the law was written narrowly enough Oregon legislators are hoping it can survive any lawsuits. 

"When the federal government repealed net neutrality, they took a step backward," Gov. Brown said on Monday at Mt. Tabor. "In Oregon, we want to move forward, to make sure that the internet is a level playing field, instead of exacerbating economic disparity."

Washington is the only other state to pass a net neutrality bill. The state's bill was a bit stricter than Oregon's because it attempts to enforce the previous federal rules for all ISPs, regardless of whether they are selling service to states. Five state governors in Vermont, Hawaii, Montana, New Jersy and New York have issued executive orders to impose net neutrality rules on ISPs providing service to government agencies, Ars Technica reported.

Gov. Brown hands off the signing pen to Lola. 
Gov. Brown hands off the signing pen to Lola.  Portland Public Schools

All three girls told Gizmodo they feel they're getting too much credit for the bill's passage.

"I think we are getting this much credit and attention because we are kids, and you don't usually see kids testifying for a bill," Lola, a 13-year-old, told the outlet.

Nevertheless, they feel the bill's passage is a step towards reinstating net neutrality at the federal level, which is their larger goal. The next fight, though, won't happen at the federal level. It'll happen when the ISPs sue Oregon, Washington and other states and cities that try to enforce previous net neutrality rules. U.S. Telecom, a lobbying group representing AT&T and Verizon, made their plans clear in a blog post online

"Broadband providers have worked hard over the past 20 years to deploy ever more sophisticated, faster and higher-capacity networks, and uphold net neutrality protections for all," the post reads. "To continue this important work, there is no question we will aggressively challenge state or municipal attempts to fracture the federal regulatory structure that made all this progress possible."

For now, though, advocates of net neutrality are the ones feeling the momentum.

"I've been really inspired over the past few months by students across the country getting involved in a variety of issues, driving action as well as conversation," Gov. Brown said. "It bodes well for the future of our democracy."

Cover photo: Portland Public Schools.

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