Internet access already being limited with the end of net neutrality

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Washington, September 21, 2018 | comments

It certainly did not take long for internet service providers (ISP) to take advantage of the end of net neutrality. New research from Northeastern University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, shows that telecom companies are slowing internet access to and from popular apps.

Apps for YouTube, Netflix and Amazon’s Prime Video have all experienced slowdowns in data speeds. Unless we restore net neutrality, this could mean even more changes that could restrict consumers’ access to the internet.

Congress needs to step up and pass legislation to protect consumers and restore net neutrality. I have joined my colleagues to make this happen.

What is net neutrality?  It was a policy created under President Obama to ensure all Americans have free and unfettered access to the internet. It means that providers cannot slow data speeds to certain apps or websites. It means that providers cannot charge extra to access certain sites.

In June, the Federal Communications Commission under the Trump Administration overturned the Obama policy and put an end to net neutrality.

With slower internet speeds now a reality, what other changes could we see? For one, you could be charged to get faster speeds to certain apps or websites.

Consumers could also be charged extra to use some apps and websites. This is a reality in other countries.

Imagine being charged an extra monthly fee (on top of what you’re already paying for the internet) to be able to use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat.

Consumers could be charged more to access messaging services, music and video.

In Portugal, the country’s wireless carrier Meo offers separate packages for the kind of data and apps consumers use.  There’s an extra charge for using social media, email, music or video apps and websites.

We could see internet services become similar to cable services for consumers. Most cable plans start with a basic package with just a few channels but if you want premium channels, that’s a whole different package and it’s going to cost a lot more.

Without net neutrality, the ability of ISPs to nickel and dime consumers is endless.

Worst case scenarios could include ISPs blocking access to websites altogether. A provider could block access because the CEO doesn’t like the politics of a website or because it could be a competitor. This would severely limit the American people’s access to information or the ability to express their First Amendment rights.

What does this mean for small businesses? If you’re a business that uses tech or a website to reach and service your customers, equal access to the internet could be the difference between success or failure.

As the FCC was working to undo net neutrality, an effort in Congress was underway to preserve it.

I joined with 168 of my colleagues to introduce legislation to overturn the FCC’s decision and restore net neutrality.

We didn’t stop there. We moved to force a vote in the House through a rare parliamentarian procedure known as a discharge petition. If 218 members of the House sign the petition, House leadership must bring the bill up for a vote.

California is also leading the way to protect consumer access to the internet. The state legislature passed legislation similar to the net neutrality policy put in place by President Obama.

When California’s bill passed, the head of a telecom industry group responded to its passage with this: "The internet must be governed by a single, uniform and consistent national policy framework, not state-by-state piecemeal approaches."

I agree. It should be a national policy and that national policy should be net neutrality.  Also in agreement are my constituents. I surveyed them recently and 86% support net neutrality.

Right now, however, California is our best bet to reverse the misguided policies of the Trump Administration. We’ve seen it on climate change and now on consumer protections as it relates to the internet.

The free flow of information is vital to a vibrant democracy - so much so that the framers of our constitution enshrined it in the First Amendment.

The internet has provided people with the unprecedented ability to communicate and access to information. We have a responsibility to protect that access.

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