2017-12-07 / Views

Reader's Forum: Continue treating internet as utility

By David Williams

WILLIAMS WILLIAMS It was once debated whether America should have postal service to rural areas. There were arguments about why we shouldn’t — too expensive, it doesn’t return the investment. But farmers needed the news, people needed to order things. There was similar debate with the introduction of landline telephone and electricity. Now, after years of access to a free and open internet, there is an imminent threat to end free and open access to it.

In 2015 the FCC passed the open internet order, which treated the regulation of broadband as a utility, similar to electricity and other essential services. Internet Service Provider companies were officially banned from blocking, throttling (slowing speeds on some services and not others) and paid prioritization (faster lanes for some services). That principle, that all traffic online should be delivered equally, is “net neutrality”.

The new FCC chairman is now preparing to accommodate corporate big business internet providers such as Charter/Spectrum, Century Link, ATT and Verizon in eliminating net neutrality. What does this mean for us in Leelanau? Eventually your internet service could be in a similar situation as today’s cable and satellite television providers: priced in tiers determined not only by varied internet speeds but caps on the amount of data you consume. Providers could also limit competitor offerings by slowing their delivery speed or blocking them entirely while enhancing speeds for their own products. In effect corporate providers would be making the choices not you, the end user. In today’s net neutral world the internet signal provider is limited to providing the signal and you choose what you want with open access to the internet.

In addition the FCC is considering lowering the standards for basic high speed internet to a level that takes users back to the old days of dismal downloading speeds. To keep the speed level of service you are currently used to you’d have to pay more. The FCC is handing over control of the internet to a few powerful special interest gatekeepers who see the rest of us as products to be delivered to advertisers, not as citizens needing the essential communications that serve democracy’s needs. Internet speeds and access to content would be determined by corporate profits.

Will internet service remain available for all on an equal basis just like other essential services such as electricity? In Leelanau most households have little or no choice of their internet service provider. Abandoning net neutrality will force users to accept what the provider dictates.

The FCC will vote on its anti-Net Neutrality order on December 14. If it passes, it will have the force of law once it is published in the Federal Register on a date to be determined.

What can you do about it? Call U.S. Representative Jack Bergman (202) 225-4735, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (202) 224-4822 or U.S. Senator Gary Peters (202) 224-6221, or web-search their email addresses. Or ask U.S. Representative candidate Matt Morgan where he stands.

About the author:

Mr. Williams, a resident of Bingham Township, is a retired educator. He says he uses the internet daily for news, research and connecting with family and friends.

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