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Net-Neutrality Battle Moves to States, and to 2020

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Wednesday, October 2, 2019   

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Net neutrality suffered a significant blow on Tuesday as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the Trump administration's rollback of Obama-era consumer protections.

Because the court upheld the repeal, it remains legal for internet service providers such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon to block or throttle any sites they want, and to charge more money for internet fast lanes.

Evan Greer, deputy director of the nonprofit Fight For The Future, said those companies spent hundreds of millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions in their quest to dismantle basic protections.

"They want to be able to control what we see and what we do online so they can squeeze us all for more money," Greer said.

The big ISPs so far have refrained from anti-competitive practices since the repeal took effect in 2018. However, this ruling clears the path for them to favor websites that they own or that pay big bucks for faster upload times.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Agit Pai, a former attorney for Verizon, has said net neutrality discouraged telecom companies from investing in internet infrastructure.

The ruling did allow states to pass their own bills, but the Missouri Legislature has rejected net-neutrality protections. Greer said this state of affairs could stifle free expression going forward, especially if President Donald Trump wins another term.

"Over time, what you're going to see is the internet becoming more and more like cable TV," Greer said, "where the only opinions that you hear, the only content that you can see, is stuff that's backed by power and money."

Reps. Emanuel Cleaver and William Clay, both D-Mo., voted in favor of a "Save the Internet" bill to restore net neutrality, which passed the U.S. House in April but hasn't received a vote in the Senate. Sens. Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley, both R-Mo., have said they oppose the Senate version of the bill.

The ruling is online at cadc.uscourts.gov.


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