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NC Consumers Have One Week to Weigh In on Net Neutrality

North Carolina schools could be among those impacted if the FCC votes to end net neutrality at its Dec. 14 meeting. (PaulSh/flickr)
North Carolina schools could be among those impacted if the FCC votes to end net neutrality at its Dec. 14 meeting. (PaulSh/flickr)
December 8, 2017

RALEIGH, N.C. – North Carolina schools could be among the groups and consumers impacted by the end of net neutrality.

The Federal Communications Commission votes next week on whether to lift the current rules that keep internet service providers from offering faster speeds to sites that can afford to pay big bucks, a move that could put small business and nonprofit websites at a disadvantage.

Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, says providers might start partitioning off the internet with packages that give access only to specific sites.

"The fear is that without network neutrality, without that protection, the internet service providers will have more power to charge you more to access certain sites or certain services," he warns. "Historically, the example is that you might get charged more to use Netflix."

Large internet providers have promised to be fair and keep consumers' best interest in mind. But, Mitchell worries they could slow down connection speeds for website owners that don't pay up, thus driving viewers to other, faster sites.

Some public libraries have said they may have to start charging for the use of their computers if rates are increased by their service providers.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai, a former attorney for Verizon, says the market will curb any abuses. But Mitchell notes that in many towns, big internet service providers have a near monopoly.

"Most Americans only have one choice in high-quality internet access," he laments. "Beyond that, they have to either take a lower-quality service option or move."

In more than 30 states, local authorities have taken the matter into their own hands, organizing municipal telephone companies that compete with the big ISPs but are required to operate in the public interest and seek to offer reasonably priced, high-speed internet.

Protests have sprung up nationwide. To find an event in your area, visit battleforthenet.com

Stephanie Carson/Shaine Smith, Public News Service - NC