Community Perspective

Bipartisanship needed on net neutrality

The Save the Internet Act that passed the Democrat-controlled House would do anything but protect online users and ensure open, unfettered access to the internet for Alaskans and all Americans. We need a true, bipartisan solution that will enforce a fair set of comprehensive rules across every aspect of the internet ecosystem today. I trust that Sen. Lisa Murkowski will do what is right and oppose this faulty legislation while working with her colleagues in Congress to pass a real legislative solution that ensures net neutrality while protecting internet users from the full range of threats we face online in the 21st century.

Perhaps the biggest flaw of the Save the Internet Act is that it would create more needless government bureaucracy. It would essentially allow the federal government to set prices, decide what services consumers could access and how they would be bundled, and determine how and where to invest in the future of the internet. We should not be ceding control of the internet to the government. Doing so will only sap the innovation and investment that has allowed the internet to grow and evolve into the social and economic force it is today.

The heavy-handed regulations that the Save the Internet Act would enforce on the modern-day internet were written in the 1930s. They have already been proven to create marketplace uncertainty that drains investment and impedes efforts to expand or invest in broadband networks. We already saw it happen before when the Obama-era Federal Communications Commission first tried to impose these rules. Broadband investment dropped as most internet providers reported increased expenses, threatening internet access and deployment most severely in rural states like Alaska. We should not be repeating these mistakes.

Another fundamental weakness of this legislation that it wouldn’t even apply net neutrality rules to huge internet companies like Facebook and Google. Once again, this goes back to the fact that these rules were written well before the internet was even conceived of, let alone before online tech companies grew into the massive entities they are today. By leaving out these internet tech giants, the Save the Internet Act fails to address one of the largest concerns online users have to deal with: the safety and security of their personal data and online privacy.

These days, companies such as Facebook and Google, among many others that dominate the online sphere, have an unbelievable amount of control over what we see and do online. They are the de facto gatekeepers of the internet for many. And unfortunately, they often use that position to give preferential treatment to themselves, censoring dissenting positions or prioritizing their products and services over their competition. The lack of transparency over how they collect and use a wide range of our personal information — as well as security breach after security breach — has many Alaskans and Americans rightfully concerned. Any solution Congress passes to protect a free and open internet must include consistent consumer protections that apply to all the major players operating online.

No one disagrees with the fundamental principles of net neutrality — that no one’s content should be unfairly slowed, blocked or throttled. However, the Democrats’ overly prescriptive regulations would not only fail to fully protect a free and open internet but also would actually hinder investments in growing and enhancing high-speed internet networks in Alaska and across the country. If passed, the Save the Internet Act would threaten competition, innovation and investment while continuing to leave consumers vulnerable to the bad actions of internet behemoths such as Google and Facebook. It’s time for Congress to scrap this misguided approach and enact bipartisan legislation that protects consumers and encourages continued investment and innovation to keep the internet safe, open and thriving.

Stephanie Haydn is an Army veteran and an Alaska resident of 20 years. She lives in Anchorage and works as an information developer at Computer Task Group

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