Mary Altaffer, AP Photo, File

Net neutrality ends today — at least for now

By Liesl Nielsen, KSL.com | Posted - Jun 11th, 2018 @ 11:39am



SALT LAKE CITY — If you’ve been online at any point in the last year or so, you’ve likely seen something about net neutrality.

In December, the Republican-backed Federal Communications Commission voted along party lines to repeal net neutrality — or regulations that prohibited internet service providers like Comcast or AT&T from speeding up, slowing down or blocking certain websites.

That repeal goes into effect Monday.

Advocates of the repeal said that the Obama-era regulations were hindering smaller internet providers with “onerous burdens,” and that the internet would flourish with the more “light-touch” approach that regulated the World Wide Web before net neutrality was enacted.

Proponents of net neutrality are concerned that ending the regulations will turn the internet into a pay-to-play venture, where internet providers can charge data-heavy sites more for a speedier connection.

Sites like Netflix and Spotify that use a lot of data would most likely have to pay a heftier price to stream at a faster speed (a charge that could trickle down to their customers), while smaller companies may not be able to afford to put their sites in the “fast lane.”

The U.S. Senate passed a measure in mid-May to preserve net neutrality and sent a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan Thursday, urging him to schedule a vote on the issue.

Though the Republican-backed House is not expected to vote in favor of re-establishing the former regulations, some are still proponents of the principles of net neutrality.

Rep. John Curtis, Utah’s newest-elected congressman, said he asked for feedback about net neutrality from his constituents — and received an overwhelming response.

“We’ve had more correspondence on this than all the other issues, and I think it’s because of the startup nature of our district and the high tech nature of our district,” he told KSL.com. “The principles of net neutrality are just really critical to this district, and they want to make sure I’m an ally in helping them achieve this and the net neutrality goals.”

Curtis said hearing from his constituents has absolutely impacted his opinion on the issue, though he feels there may be a better way to serve the principles of net neutrality than simply re-enacting the former regulations.

The country’s telecommunications rules were written in 1930, leaving the world of 2018 with a myriad of questions about how to regulate and govern the internet, according to Curtis.

“The (laws) are just not adequate for today’s internet, so what I would like to see happen is Congress jump in and rewrite those from a 2018 perspective,” he said. “That is truly the best way to accomplish the principles of net neutrality.”

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Curtis said there are a couple bills that are “starting to take shape,” and he’s watching them carefully.

The congressman recently passed a bill through the House Committee on Natural Resources that would help bring broadband and high-speed internet to rural communities.

“By helping our rural communities gain access to high-speed internet, we can ensure efficiencies for rural schools, hospitals and for critical economic development opportunities. Above all, we can guarantee that Americans in rural communities have an enhanced quality of life,” Curtis told the committee.

But an end to net neutrality may be a setback for both rural communities as well as the startup scene — an area of enormous economic growth for Utah.

Though net neutrality has ended, however, internet users most likely won’t see immediate changes.

“It just means that the potential for problems is much higher,” Curtis told KSL.com. “To me, it puts pressure on Congress to say, ‘Well, we don’t have a long window here to come up with answers.’ And really there’s a sense of urgency to getting a congressional answer moving and getting some momentum behind it.”

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Updated: Sunday August 19, 2018 4:57 pm