Fighting to save net neutrality

The Day

Voices of reason are pushing back against the Federal Communications Commission decision last month to repeal Obama-era net neutrality rules. There is enough bipartisan support in Congress for net neutrality that a bill to reverse the FCC decision is a possibility. Failing that, look for it to become an issue in the 2018 campaign.

Even if a bill reaches President Trump, there is the strong possibility he would veto it. His appointees dumped the net neutrality rules. Yet such a move could haunt Trump and the Republicans at election time. Polls show the public largely opposing the rollback of the Obama rules.

While the politics sort out, legal challenges should stall implementation of the repeal. Connecticut has joined 20 other states in asking a federal appeals court to suspend the FCC rollback.

The Obama rules have prevented Internet service providers (chiefly cable companies) from slowing down or blocking websites that pose competition to them, such as Netflix. The rules also banned “paid prioritization,” meaning providers have not been able to speed up service for some websites, or otherwise give them priority, in exchange for payment.

Without net neutrality, startups and small businesses that cannot afford fast access to customers will face a barrier perhaps too large to overcome. Innovation and creativity on the web will wither. Power and control will consolidate in fewer hands, to the detriment of consumers. There is also the potential to throttle political debate on the web.

In attacking net neutrality, Trump and the FCC put the desires of powerful special interests ahead of the general good.

A better choice is a bill, backed by Connecticut Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, both Democrats, which would essentially restore the FCC rules imposed during the Obama years.

Blackburn contends her bill has more chance to get the necessary bipartisan support. But Democrats should not assume that and should push for their version of net neutrality, while looking for opportunities to compromise.

Meanwhile, legislatures in several states, including Connecticut, are considering laws to impose the Obama-era neutrality rules on businesses operating in those states. Having a hodge-podge of differing state rules is one more reason Congress needs to fix this at the federal level.