State Assemblyman Anthony J. Brindisi, D-119, Utica, joined local business leaders at the thInCubator, a local business development center in Utica, on Thursday to support legislation to return net neutrality to New York.
The Brindisi-backed bill would require internet providers doing business in the State of New York to certify they don’t slow or speed up the web traffic of certain people or businesses to direct users to certain sites for monetary gain.
It directs all state agencies and municipalities to stop doing business with internet service providers that are not net neutral. It also gives the Public Service Commission the authority to regulate ISP’s on issues involving net neutrality.
Prominent ISP’s with business before the state include Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and Spectrum.
“The internet should not be a toll road. Don’t we have enough of those?” Brindisi said.
“Under this plan we not only tell the internet providers they can’t drop internet tolls on New Yorkers, but we protect the free and open internet here at home — and we send a national message. I’ve already taken on the internet providers once and I am here to say: I will do it again. First they want our privacy, and now they are coming for our hometown.”
FCC repeal changes online landscape
On Dec. 14, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to repeal net neutrality. They said the move gives ISPs the power to decide which websites they offer customers, or whether some websites or services can be provided at a higher cost than others.
The FCC is Republican-controlled, and President Donald J. Trump appointed FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a long-time critic of net neutrality, to his post. Brindisi and state Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, whom Brindisi said supports net neutrality, are both Democrats.
The net neutrality repeal blocks laws that prevent internet providers from blocking or slowing down online content, and from promoting their own content.
Rep. Claudia L. Tenney, NY-22, New Hartford, will run against Brindisi to represent the 22nd congressional district this fall. Her campaign manager and spokesperson Raychel Renna said Tenney opposes net neutrality.
“Instituting net neutrality at the state level will only further hurt our rural and under-served regions that suffered under the Obama Administration’s heavy handed net neutrality regulations,” Renna said.
In 2015, the Obama Administration reclassified internet service as a telecommunications service. This move, Tenney told the Sentinel after the December repeal, subjected the internet to government control through a new and restrictive regulatory framework.
“In the 22nd District, too many rural areas don’t have access to broadband. Lack of access has hampered economic development and hurt job creators who need broadband services to expand their operations,” Tenney said.
Cuomo backs net neutrality
Cuomo has delivered an ultimatum to internet service providers that have state contracts, ordering them to comply with net neutrality principles or risk losing their work for the state’s agencies.
However, legislation is still needed, Brindisi said, because executive orders can be challenged in court, and a law cannot. The legislation is broader than the executive order.
Brindisi said the lack of net neutrality will set the stage for what he termed a ‘haves and have nots’ internet.
“The Federal Communications Commission’s recent decision to end net neutrality will stifle innovation, impact small businesses, and hurt students and families across our area,” he said. “Entrepreneurs or small business start-ups that require a lot of bandwidth may soon have to pay more for it, and in many cases that could have a real effect on their future growth.
“Public libraries pride themselves on providing free and open access to information for everyone, and giving internet Service Providers the ability to charge for extra bandwidth or prioritize content jeopardizes that mission, and may put some content out of reach of those who cannot afford to pay for it.”