Cuomo signs executive order protecting net neutrality, but can it be enforced?

Jan 25, 2018

In response to the Federal Communications Commission's recent decision to lift net neutrality, Governor Cuomo signed an executive order Wednesday that aims to preserve it in New York State. But the question is, can it be enforced? WBFO asked a legal expert at the University at Buffalo.


Governor Cuomo says companies that provide internet service must keep access to content available at a fair level. Supporters of net neutrality say without it, providers would be able to push certain content sources over others, making it more difficult, slower or more expensive to acquire content possibly deemed less desirable.

An image of some of Governor Cuomo's executive order aiming to preserve net neutrality in New York State.
Credit Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo

What if that were to include playing favorites in terms of news sources?

"That's a concern. Now we're talking about First Amendment problems here with privileging some news sources over another," said Mark Bartholomew, professor of law at the University at Buffalo. "What I'd prefer is not having to confront that issue."

Bartholomew's opinion is that the FCC made a mistake with its decision to lift net neutrality. What remains to be seen is whether Cuomo's executive order can really be enforced.

"That's the big question. It really gets at the principles of federalism. Is this something the federal government should control or something that state governments have some authority to decide," he said.

He suggests that with highly motivated interests on both sides of the argument, there's a possibility the fate of net neutrality could eventually be brought before the Supreme Court. 

In the meantime, Bartholomew tells WBFO there's one way local governments could get around net neutrality if Cuomo's order is ultimately deemed unconstitutional.

"Municipal broadbands can be required to observe principles of net neutrality if that's what the local government requires," he said. 

Erie County has studied broadband and the county executive's office is reportedly pondering whether to create a network. 

Meanwhile, New York is one of 22 states currently suing to reverse the FCC's decision.

Governor Cuomo has signed an executive order that aims to enforce net neutrality in New York State. The action comes in response to the Federal Communications Commission's recent vote to end net neutrality.