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Clock Ticking Toward Net-Neutrality Decision

Illinois residents could pay more to access the internet if net neutrality rules are abolished. (
Illinois residents could pay more to access the internet if net neutrality rules are abolished. (
September 11, 2017

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- The clock is ticking when it comes to a free and open internet in the United States, and watchdog groups are gearing up for what could be a lengthy court battle if regulators put an end to net neutrality.

In May, the Federal Communications Commission proposed rolling back an Obama-era rule regulating internet service providers like utilities, meaning providers must provide equal service for all sites. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wants to quash regulations treating Internet Service Providers as utilities, saying it hampers innovation and investment.

Jim Chilsen, director of communications for the Citizens Utility Board, said there's a misconception of what net neutrality is, and who would it impacts.

"A lot of times, this gets portrayed as this battle between these big tech companies - between AT&T and Amazon, or Verizon, or Comcast and Netflix,” Chilsen said. "And it actually, in the end, it's going to hit the little guy, consumers like you and me."

Chilsen said if net neutrality rules are rolled back, it could drive small tech companies and internet providers out of business; meaning if consumers are unhappy with the services a large ISP provides, there would be nowhere else to turn. He said if the FCC decides to pull the plug on safeguards that are in place, watchdog agencies like his will take the issue to court.

He said Illinois residents already are being socked with high property and income taxes, and every increase in a utility bill hurts, especially for those on a fixed income.

"Consumers get nickeled and dimed,” he said. "A $90 million rate hike for a company may seem like a small rate, and the per-customer rate hike may be small, but these little cuts take a toll."

More than 22 million people commented on net neutrality during the FCC's public comment period, and Chilsen said an overwhelming majority were in favor of keeping protections in place.

The Citizens Utility Board is holding a series of town hall meetings, including events in Carbondale and Champaign this week.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IL