By Rep. Susan Davis | District 53 Dispatch
It certainly did not take long for internet service providers (ISP) to take advantage of the end of net neutrality. New research from Northeastern University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst shows that telecom companies are slowing internet access to and from popular online applications.
Apps for YouTube, Netflix and Amazon’s Prime Video have all experienced slowdowns in data speeds. Unless we restore net neutrality, the future could hold even more changes that restrict consumers’ access to the internet.
Congress needs to step up and pass legislation to protect consumers and restore net neutrality. I have joined my colleagues to make this happen.
What actually is net neutrality? It was a policy created under President Barack Obama to ensure all Americans have free and unfettered access to the internet. It means that providers cannot slow data speeds to certain apps or websites, and that providers cannot charge extra to access certain sites.
In June, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under the Trump administration overturned the Obama policy and put an end to net neutrality.
With slower internet speeds now a reality, what other changes could we see? For one, you could be charged to get faster online speeds.
Consumers could also be charged extra to use some apps and websites. This is a reality in other countries.
Imagine being charged an extra monthly fee — on top of what you’re already paying for the internet — to be able to use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. Consumers could be charged more to access messaging, music and video services.
In Portugal, the country’s wireless carrier Meo offers separate packages for the kind of data and apps consumers use. There’s an extra charge for using social media, email, music or video apps and websites.
We could see internet services become similar to cable services for consumers. Most cable plans start with a basic package with just a few channels; if you want premium channels, that’s a whole different package and it’s going to cost a lot more.
Without net neutrality, the ability of ISPs to nickel-and-dime consumers is endless.
Worst-case scenarios could include ISPs blocking access to websites altogether. A provider could restrict access because the CEO doesn’t like the politics of a website or because it could be a competitor. This would severely limit the American people’s access to information or the ability to express their First Amendment rights.
What does this mean for small businesses? If you’re a business that uses technology or a website to reach and service your customers, equal access to the internet could be the difference between success or failure.
As the FCC was working to undo net neutrality, an effort in Congress was underway to preserve it. I joined with 168 of my colleagues to introduce legislation to overturn the FCC’s decision and restore net neutrality.
We didn’t stop there. We moved to fore a vote in the House of Representatives through a rare parliamentarian procedure known as a discharge petition. If 218 members of the House sign the petition, House leadership must bring the bill up for a vote.
California is also leading the way to protect consumer access to the internet. The state legislature passed legislation similar to the net neutrality policy put in place by President Obama.
When California’s bill passed, the head of a telecommunications industry group responded to its passage: “The internet must be governed by a single, uniform and consistent national policy framework, not state-by-state piecemeal approaches.”
I agree. It should be a national policy and that national policy should be net neutrality. My constituents also agree; I surveyed them recently and 86 percent support net neutrality.
However, right now California is our best bet to reverse the misguided policies of the Trump administration. We’ve seen it on climate change and now on consumer protections as it relates to the internet.
The free flow of information is vital to a vibrant democracy — so much so that the framers of our constitution enshrined it in the First Amendment.
The internet has provided people with the unprecedented ability to communicate and access information. We have a responsibility to protect that access.
—Congresswoman Davis represents central San Diego, including the communities of Old Town, Kensington, Mission Hills, University Heights, Hillcrest, Bankers Hill, North Park, South Park, Talmadge, Normal Heights, as well as La Mesa, Lemon Grove, Spring Valley, Bonita, and parts of El Cajon and Chula Vista.