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Net Neutrality

The FCC voted today in a 3-2 decision to reverse a 2015 ruling which classified internet as a public utility, a ruling which, until today, meant that internet access providers would be regulated just like telephone providers. This ruling originally came into effect after a serious of incidents in the early part of the decade where internet access providers had begun taking advantage of their self-inflicted monopolies, knowing that their customers relied on their service to communicate in a modern world. The most infamous of these incidents occurred when Netflix found their customers being held hostage by Comcast, who demanded that Netflix pay a premium to Comcast, or else Comcast would make Netflix so unusable on Comcast connections that their customers would no longer be able to utilize the service.
There are valid arguments to be made on both sides of this specific ruling, and a discussion should be had about how best to regulate the internet in a modern economy, but I do not think anyone would endorse the idea of allowing internet access providers free and unregulated control over the internet, while simultaneously allowing them to maintain the near-monopolistic control they have over their market areas. Here in the 9th District, many of our rural citizens have no access to broadband internet, or if they do, it’s only through one or two providers. There’s no free market, there’s no competition, and so there’s no incentive for these providers to offer anything more than what can generously be described as “barely usable” internet.
I believe that the internet should be regulated as a public utility because such regulation would serve as a two-sided attack, simultaneously protecting the equality of speech that makes the internet great and protecting customers who have no choice in how they get access.

For many people, there is no option to just “switch providers”. Either you use the internet provider that’s available where you live, or you don’t have internet. I doubt many people would argue with the idea that fast, reliable internet is as necessary in today’s world as clean drinking water and functioning electricity. That’s why, if consumers don’t have a choice in who their provider is, it is the responsibility of our elected officials to ensure that those providers offer fair access to all.

Today’s ruling by itself may not mean much to some people, but to me it signals the beginning of an era where control over the most powerful tool ever invented in the history of humanity is taken away from the many and given to the few.

I ask you to join with me in sending a message to the internet access providers. The internet is ours, not yours. You may own the gate, but you don’t own the street. We’ll gladly pay you for the gas in our cars and we’ll gladly pay taxes to maintain the roads, but we won’t let you tell us where to drive or how to get there.f

Blankenship 2018
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