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New Gauntlet Thrown in Battle for Open Internet

Opponents say rolling back net neutrality would allow Internet providers to create fast lanes for their content and slow lanes for websites that couldn't pay. (Pixabay)
Opponents say rolling back net neutrality would allow Internet providers to create fast lanes for their content and slow lanes for websites that couldn't pay. (Pixabay)
May 17, 2018

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A new gauntlet has been thrown down in the fight for a free and open Internet.

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday voted 52 to 47 to stop the Federal Communications Commission’s recent move to roll back net-neutrality rules finalized under the Obama administration.

The reversal is scheduled to go into effect on June 11.

Andrew Rossow, an adjunct professor of cyberspace law at the University of Dayton, explains it would allow Internet providers to create fast lanes for their content and slow lanes for websites that don't pay.

"I hate to use the word 'dial-up' Internet, but it basically brings it back into that 'Who has the faster Internet, who has the better platform?' based off what service provider you're using,” he points out. “So it's no longer this free internet of, you know, I get to go to any site I want right now without having to worry about paying higher fees."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and others argue that removing protections would return the Internet to the same regulatory environment that helped it grow. Industry groups also maintain the rules blunt investment.

But Rossow counters that the rollback would favor large corporations, squeezing out the little guy.

"For a smaller business or a venture, it's an eat-or-be-killed kind of thing,” he states. “If they aren't able to pay the higher premiums or prices, then they may not be able to thrive and succeed in comparison to a larger company."

Tim Karr, senior director of strategy and communications with the advocacy group Free Press, says it's important to point out a recent University of Maryland study showing 86 percent of Americans oppose the rollback.

"Eighty-two percent of Republicans support the net-neutrality protections and oppose the FCC's recent decision to take those away,” he states. “We're very hopeful that our members of Congress will do their jobs, which is essentially to represent the interests of the American public."

The Senate used the Congressional Review Act to block the rollback, and if signed into law, it would prohibit the FCC from upending net-neutrality rules in the future.

While the measure faces an uncertain future in the GOP-controlled House, Karr notes that some 22 states are challenging the repeal in court.

Reporting by Ohio News Connection in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded in part by the George Gund Foundation.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH