Correction: This story has been updated to accurately reflect the views of Alaska Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan. The updated story clarifies that neither senator has taken an official stance on the subject of a net neutrality repeal and are currently monitoring the actions of the FCC before taking an official position on the matter.
FAIRBANKS — Alaska’s two senators and one congressman are on the fence about a potential repeal of Obama-era net neutrality rules, as announced in late November by Federal Communications Commission Chairperson Ajit Pai.
These rules, put in place during former President Barack Obama’s presidency, were designed to equalize access to the internet and prevent broadband providers from favoring their own apps and services.
If passed, Pai’s proposed repeal would allow providers such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon to charge internet companies such as Netflix and Amazon, for speedier access to consumers and to block outside services they don’t like. The change also axes a host of consumer protections, including privacy requirements and rules barring unfair practices that gave consumers an avenue to pursue complaints about price gouging.
Matt Shuckerow, a spokesman for Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan, said the senator supports preserving a “free and open internet.”
“(Sen. Sullivan) believes that consumers should be protected against discriminatory practices such as blocking, throttling and paid prioritization,” Shuckerow said.
Shuckerow noted that Sullivan supports keeping internet affordable and accessible to all consumers but was not a fan of the 2015 rules, however.
“The 2015 Open Internet Order used Title II authority to subject Internet Service Providers or ISPs to an 80-year- old regulatory scheme designed to regulate telephones,” Shuckerow said. “Additionally, this was done as a result of the previous Administration exceeding its authority by encouraging an independent agency, the FCC, to perform a specific action.”
Sullivan said he will continue to work with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and others to ensure open internet access but has not officially declared a position on the issue.
Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young echoed many of Sullivan’s sentiments on the matter, emphasizing Alaska’s need for continued open and accessible internet.
“Congressman Young is committed to ensuring Alaskans have fair and open access to broadband and the many benefits — telehealth, distance education, among others — that high speed connectivity provides,” Pamela Day, a spokesperson for Young, said. “Although many have highlighted this particular issue in recent months and years, the congressman continues to underscore the fact that Alaska remains unserved or underserved by high-speed broadband.”
A spokesperson for Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said the senator is monitoring the FCC’s progress of the issue and remains undecided on her stance.
Murkowski’s office noted that in 2015 the senator “opposed the FCC’s actions to adopt the net neutrality rule because it threatened the free flow of information over the internet by choosing to regulate it under an antiquated 1934 utility law.”
Murkowski’s spokesperson said the senator “strongly supports a robust and strong internet given the vital role it plays in education, information sharing and innovation.”
The FCC is set to vote on this issue Dec 14.
Contact staff writer Erin Granger at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMPolitics. The
Associated Press contributed to this report.