January 26, 2020
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King, Pingree call for delay of net neutrality vote

Mary Altaffer | AP
Mary Altaffer | AP
Demonstrators rally in support of net neutrality outside a Verizon store last week in New York. The FCC is set to vote Thursday whether to scrap Obama-era rules around open internet access that prevent phone and cable companies from favoring certain websites and apps.

Independent Sen. Angus King and Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree are ramping up pressure on the Federal Communications Commission to delay a vote this week to repeal net neutrality.

King and Pingree, both of whom oppose the concept of ending net neutrality, cited a botched public comment period during which thousands of fake comments were submitted to the FCC during its deliberations.

King signed a letter with 27 Senate colleagues last week, and Pingree says her name is on a similar letter from House members that will be delivered on Tuesday. The letters come as the FCC intends to move forward with a vote

Net neutrality, a concept set into law under President Barack Obama, ensures equal access to the internet for consumers. Repealing the practice would allow internet service providers to block certain content or charge more for various types of internet use. The FCC has announced it plans to dismantle the rules with a vote on Thursday.

Pingree called for an investigation into the fake comments, which were uncovered by the New York attorney general’s office. In a video, Pingree encouraged constituents to see if their names were used fraudulently by visiting a New York state website.

“The FCC should delay its vote on net neutrality to fully investigation to what extent the public process was compromised, who was behind it and what was their intention,” said Pingree in a written statement .

King, who has long opposed abolishing net neutrality, made a similar argument in the letter he signed with several Democratic senators.

“This is a matter of enormous importance with significant implications for our entire economy and therefore merits the most thorough, deliberate and thoughtful process that can be provided,” said King in a written statement on Monday. “Unfortunately, the process thus far in this important matter hasn’t come close to meeting that standard.”

Republican Sen. Susan Collins does not support the FCC abolishing net neutrality but has not asked for a delay in the scheduled vote.

“She supports common-sense regulations to clarify that internet providers must not manage their systems in an anti-competitive way that limits consumers’ choices,” said a Collins spokeswoman in a written statement.

Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine’s 2nd District said in a written statement that he wants to return to the less-restrictive rules that were in place before the 2015 change under Obama.

“Before then, the internet was able to grow and prosper without evidence that the worst-case scenarios from the proponents of this rule ever coming to fruition,” Poliquin said. “We want to ensure the internet is regulated in a common sense manner.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has steadfastly refused to delay the vote or investigate the allegations about the fraudulent comments.

For a roundup of today’s Maine political news, click here for the Daily Brief. Click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings.

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