HARTFORD, CT — The Federal Communications Commission may have voted to eliminate rules about net neutrality, but Connecticut lawmakers and Attorney General George Jepsen said they will do what they can to preserve the Internet.
Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, said he plans to draft legislation to hold companies to their commitment not to block websites, throttle speeds or impose prioritization pricing. He said the legislation would also establish a process for internet service providers to certify that they will not engage in practices inconsistent with net neutrality principles.
“Small businesses and consumers will be the biggest losers as a result of the FCC’s damaging discarding of net neutrality rules,” Duff said. “Preserving open internet is good for Connecticut’s businesses, startups, students and consumers.”
Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, echoed the call for state action.
“The FCC’s reversal of America’s net neutrality law is a huge win for already profitable business monopolies and a huge loss for consumers and business start-ups, and as elected officials, we need to put every options on the table to protect our citizens,” Bye said. “Fair and equal access to the Internet is vital to our democracy. The action by the FCC threatens our democracy and threatens our rights as citizens, as consumers, and as business owners. The dismantling of net neutrality only caters to and lines the pockets of massive communications companies like Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and others.”
Bye said she’s fought these companies in her quest to bring affordable gigabit Internet service to Connecticut.
She said it won’t be easy but “we have to assure an even playing field on the Internet for start-ups and small businesses. We also need to ensure that all students, regardless of income, have access to the technology they need to innovate and succeed.”
Additionally, Duff will seek to include language in his proposed legislation to hold companies accountable for warranties made to consumers as well as amend Connecticut’s consumer protection laws to include the principles of net neutrality.
“It is disturbing but not all surprising that once again the Trump Administration appointees have voted against the interests of everyday Americans,” Duff said. “You don’t need to be a psychic to predict that the cable giants will raise rates, block content and potentially slow down services for residents across Connecticut. While there is no substitute for federal regulation, we will work at the state level to try mitigate the consequences of this week’s decision.”
Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz condemned the Federal Communication Commission’s repeal of the net neutrality rules last week.
She also noted that the repeal of net neutrality rules is just one of several moves by the FCC that will cause serious harm to consumers. She said that the FCC has also overturned consumer data privacy protections and is considering rules that would allow telephone companies to withdraw traditional “copper line” phone service from consumers without notice and without ensuring there is a comparable alternative for consumers; and taking measures that would take away “Lifeline” phone service from most eligible low-income consumers.
“The FCC is a very scary place right now for anyone who is concerned about consumers, including small businesses, the elderly, and the low-income,” Katz said. “My office is working in concert with other state consumer advocate offices to fight these moves. However, we need legislators and policymakers across the country to join the effort to stop the FCC’s attacks on consumers.”
Katz suggested Connecticut follow the lead of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee who has proposed holding ISP’s to commitments not to block websites, throttle speed or imposing prioritization pricing, leverage the state’s power as a large purchaser of telecommunication services to demand companies with state contracts adhere to net neutrality principales, hold companies accountable for warranties, and support new entrants to the concentrated market of Internet Service Providers.
“I realize we’re a small state, so we can’t go it alone,” Katz said. “But if we band together with like-minded officials in other states, we can return power to consumers – and hopefully preserve net neutrality.”
Meanwhile, Jepsen joined with other attorney generals in writing a letter encouraging the FCC to delay last week’s vote.
Led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman the group worried about fake comments, which often used real people’s names and addresses without their knowledge, submitted to the commission prior to the vote.
Jaclyn Severance, a spokeswomen for Jepsen, said he “strongly disagrees with the FCC’s actions and believes the Internet should be open and free.”
She added that their office has been in communication with New York and other states in determining the best course of action to address the matter on behalf of Connecticut residents.