SENATE SCHEDULES THURSDAY DEBATE ON NET NEUTRALITY, OPIOID BILLS
By Colin A. Young
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JULY 17, 2018.....In addition to a bill intended to combat the opioid epidemic, the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday reported out bills dealing with internet neutrality, Alzheimer's disease and raising the pay for certain members of the National Guard, preparing each for possible votes later this week.
The net neutrality bill (S 2610) redrafted by the Ways and Means Committee appears to abandon the prohibition on blocking customers from accessing certain content and throttling down the speed at which a customer can connect to certain websites that was included in other bills and recommended by the Senate's special net neutrality committee.
Instead, the new bill would create a central registry of internet service providers (ISPs) and would require the Department of Telecommunications and Cable to grade ISPs based on service quality, policies on paid prioritization, network management practices and consumer privacy practices, according to a bill summary. ISPs would be required to disclose that grade to each consumer before entering into a contract and at least annually.
The elimination of the ban on practices like blocking and throttling is underscored by the fact that, in redrafting the legislation, the Ways and Means Committee renamed the bill from "An Act protecting consumers by prohibiting blocking, throttling, or paid prioritization in the provision of internet service" (S 2336) to "An Act promoting net neutrality and consumer protection."
Under the redraft, ISPs would be required to file an annual disclosure with the department laying out its network management practices, its performance characteristics, commercial terms of its broadband service and privacy policies. By July 1, 2019, state agencies would be required to establish a preference to obtain internet services from an ISP that complies with the department's standards.
Senate Ways and Means also reported out a bill that would double from $100 to $200 the minimum daily pay earned by soldiers and airmen performing active state duty in the National Guard.
That bill (S 2611) would also establish a state-specific code of conduct for guard members in state service that would mirror the Uniform Code of Military Justice and increase the age limit for members of the state militia from 45 to 65.
Under a third bill (S 2612) reported out Tuesday, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services would be required to assess all state programs that address Alzheimer's disease and create an integrated state plan to assist in the treatment of Alzheimer's.
The bill also requires doctors and nurses to complete a training course on the diagnosis, treatment and care of patients with Alzheimer's, and requires hospitals to implement an operational plan for the recognition and management of patients with dementia in acute care settings by October 2021.
The Senate scheduled the National Guard pay and code of conduct legislation for consideration on Wednesday and scheduled debate on the net neutrality and Alzheimer's bills for Thursday, when the Senate also plans to debate its opioid addiction prevention bill (S 2609).
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