When a Republican, Democrat and independent all oppose something, you know it is a bad idea. Such is the case with a proposal from the Federal Communications Commission to end net neutrality. That plan is opposed by Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, and Rep. Chellie Pingree.
“The open Internet has changed the way Americans conduct their business, pursue their education, and interact with their communities. It’s a vital part of 21st century life, and a critical driver of a modern economy,” King said in a statement sent to the Bangor Daily News. “The proposed repeal of net neutrality threatens those advancements by putting speed and availability of information for sale to the highest bidder – a simply unacceptable approach, which will stifle innovation and slow the creation of new businesses.”
Net neutrality is a concept that aims to ensure equal access to the internet for consumers, by barring internet providers from discriminating among content and applications. The FCC, under former President Barack Obama, decreed in 2015 that internet services are telecomm services and therefore must be equally available to all.
Earlier this year, the FCC put out a notice that it intended to do away with net neutrality in exchange for a “light touch” regulatory approach. Earlier this month, the FCC shared details of its plans, which would allow internet providers to control what content and sites their customers can access and at what cost. The commission is scheduled to vote on the plan on Dec. 14.
The fear is that the providers, including Comcast, Verizon and AT&T, will slow down sites and services that compete with their services. For example, Comcast, which is also a cable provider, could slow video streaming services such as Netflix and YouTube so its customers would be more likely to watch movies on its cable or streaming channels.
Comcast, which has previously said it would not offer paid prioritization, has dropped that pledge. Paid prioritization allows internet providers to charge some website and services higher rates in order to speed up delivery of their content on the web, creating so-called fast lanes for those willing to pay for them.
Another fear, shared by King and Collins, is that doing away with net neutrality will slow the buildout of broadband in rural places, including Maine, as internet providers focus on more lucrative areas and services.
A recent report found that investments in broadband have increased during the two years that the net neutrality rules have been in effect. This directly contradicts claims from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a longtime net neutrality critic, that the rules have stymied investment.
Although we disagree with Pai’s efforts to do away with net neutrality, we strongly condemn threats against him and his children, which are misplaced and juvenile.
Net neutrality rules are working. There is no compelling reason to abandon them.
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