Commentary: Vote for candidates who support net neutrality

(Jacquelyn Martin | Associated Press file photo) This Dec. 14, 2017, photo shows the seal of the Federal Communications Commission before a meeting in Washington. Your ability to watch and use your favorite apps and services could start to change, though not right away, following a formal repeal of Obama-era internet protections on Monday, June 11, 2018. The repeal takes effect six months after the FCC voted to undo “net neutrality” rules that had barred broadband and cellphone companies from favoring their own services and discriminating against rivals such as Netflix.

Most Americans don’t want companies like Verizon and AT&T to return to censoring what we read, watch and post online, forcing us to wait forever for our favorite websites to load (if at all) or to start charging us more to connect with our family or friends. But our representatives in the House either are not listening or do not care, perhaps both.

Net neutrality mandated that all internet data be treated equally, or “neutrally.” Internet service providers were not allowed to censor data, slow down or speed up specific sites or charge more to consumers to access particular platforms.

Since the Federal Communications Commission overturned these rules, ISPs can now charge you more to access sites such as Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. They can charge you more to Facetime with your granddaughter across the country, for example. I enjoy streaming online programs and am not interested in being charged extra by my ISP in addition to paying Netflix to access its content. Internet bills may soon look like cable bills with “bundles” and “packages.”

Small businesses may have to pay more to reach their customers. ISPs can create “fast” and “slow” lanes and charge accordingly. For example, access to your local family-owned restaurant’s site may take longer to load (or be blocked altogether) if the fast lane is unaffordable. At the same time, companies with bigger budgets that pay for fast lanes will be easier to find. This will hurt and stifle the wonderful small businesses we have across our state.

Removing protections tramples on our First Amendment right to free speech. ISPs can now censor what we say and see online. They have done it before and will do it again. In 2007 (before protections), AT&T removed an anti-George W. Bush lyric while streaming a Pearl Jam concert. Also, in the same year, Verizon blocked pro-choice text messages because Verizon deemed the topic of abortion to be too controversial.

After these incidents garnered media attention, Verizon allowed the messages, AT&T claimed that removing the lyrics was an error by a third-party vendor, and, at the time, both claimed that such actions would not recur. Now, without the protections, ISPs are free to censor any issue. We are left hoping that such occurrences are discovered and that the media take notice.

Our representatives could help reinstate these protections by signing on to the Congressional Review Act to overrule the FCC. Instead, they are working for their donors. Rob Bishop has received $50,000 in campaign donations from ISPs, according to the Verge; Mia Love, $36,225; Chris Stewart, $28,500; and John Curtis, $2,000. This does not even include the 2018 election year. According to a University of Maryland poll, 86 percent of Americans want net neutrality protections, including 82 percent of Republicans, 90 percent of Democrats and 85 percent of independents. None of our so-called representatives, however, have signed on to the CRA.

Many of our local Republican politicians say that they are “for” net neutrality, but it should be done legislatively. They refuse to say what that bill would look like — making it very unlikely to offer complete protections. If they truly are for net neutrality, they would act to save the protections while working on a legislative solution. This inaction confirms where their priorities lie.

Finally, some tout that the free market will keep ISPs in check. This could not be further from the truth. Many people, including me and those in rural parts of our state, have only one provider from which to choose. The market simply does not work when there is no competition.

Net neutrality affects every one of us and should be at the forefront of our minds when we vote in November. If our representatives continue to act against the expressed will and best interests of their constituents, we should vote for candidates who choose us over their donors.

Charlotte Maloney

Charlotte Maloney, a native Utahn, holds a bachelor of science in business from the University of Utah and has worked in human resource management and as a librarian.