WILMINGTON, MA — Below is an Op-Ed (“The Internet Is Set To Change… For The Worse”) on net neutrality submitted by State Rep. Candidate Dave Robertson (D-Tewksbury):
The past few weeks have been overwhelming in terms of national news, so it’s no wonder that the important decision regarding Net Neutrality has been missed by many busy people. Many believe, with 86% of the public supporting net neutrality, that the FCC would not reverse such a popular system. Well, unfortunately, the time for action is here.
For those who may not be familiar with Net Neutrality, the phrase refers to regulations set in place two years ago that forbids internet providers from intentionally prohibiting access to all legal websites. Many internet providers are parts of media conglomerates, and federal regulators worried that these companies would intentionally remove competitors websites from views, or charge more money for you and I to use them.
Recent efforts by such companies have succeeded in beginning to roll those protections back completely, exposing consumers to pricier plans with literally no improvements to services.
This is already a partial reality in Portugal, where the phone company “Meo” charges $5.86 (5 Euros) a month for different internet “bundles.” To access your email , you pay for one “bundle.” To listen to music stations, it’s $5.86 for another “bundle.” Want to send photos of your kids to relatives? Better pay another $5.86 to allow internet access for those photo-sharing programs. In fact, as Meo advertises one would pay an additional $29.30 each month, per phone user, for what we currently access for no more than our standard phone bill. Imagine the water department charging you more because you chose to use Kenmore branded products instead of the Maytag brand, or intentionally shuttering your sewage access because you do not use “their preferred products.”
The end of Net Neutrality will have terrible ramifications. As Massachusetts is known for its technology companies, many start ups and mid-sized companies will falter under the lack of protections. When these companies allow access to their services on the internet, as internet providers will charge users to use these small websites or slow access to the point where users will not use the site at all. Students, who rely on the internet to further their studies at all ages, may not have access to educational websites at all. Even visiting the official NFL or NBA homepage may result in additional charges, or intentionally slowed loading times even though just months before access was always the fastest internet speed available. Small businesses will suffer, potentially having to pay more for access, and residential customers will lose access to entertainment, knowledge, and communication among friends and loved ones.
Now, what can be done? Several Congressional members, including all of ours here in Massachusetts, have forced a vote on the federal level to support the bipartisan agreement that Net Neutrality is for the best. But it is not enough that our federal delegation reverses these decisions on a national level, we need additional protections here in Massachusetts in case such an attempt to repeal happens again. Representative Andy Vargas of Haverhill filed a strong piece of legislation that if passed would ensure protections. In addition to forbidding companies from “throttling, blocking, or restricting access” to any content, it gives enforcement power to state agencies to preserve our current form of internet.
Additional weapons in our arsenal available to preserve our internet from rolling back includes mandating government contract preferences for internet and phone companies that abide by net neutrality standards, imposing non-compliance fees for the use of public land crossings on non-abiding company infrastructure, or ensuring that all internet traffic that does not cross state lines will not be slowed down. As these are hurdles that would be too high of a cost for internet providers to shoulder in order to make a switch, and would provide extra protection for the Massachusetts consumer.
Voters of the 19th Middlesex District can ensure that the next State Representative supports families, students, and businesses of all sizes by standing with Net Neutrality. Without it we stand to lose access to education, business services, and even basic entertainment. Our service providers will swear up and down they don’t intend to move to this model, but that begs the question, why are they fighting so hard to remove these protections if they wouldn’t intend to move to the new system otherwise? Voters, don’t be fooled by them or anyone who supports the removal of your consumer rights, and make sure that the next State Representative is someone who will actively protect your family, neighbors, and businesses.
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