Rep. Brian King looks to restore net neutrality standards in Utah
State Rep. Brian S. King (D-Salt Lake) is crafting legislation that would require internet service providers that do business with state and local agencies to adhere to the net neutrality guidelines that were in place before Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai dismantled them last year.
Proponents of net neutrality — which includes 80 percent of respondents in one national poll from 2017 — say Pai’s rules enable large ISPs to choke out smaller competition and will allow them to control how content is served up to internet users in the future. In response, providers have said they “have committed to no blocking, no throttling and no anticompetitive prioritization,” according to an emailed statement from the Utah Cable and Telecommunications Association.
Park City is only serviced by two residential broadband providers, both of them major players: Comcast (under its Xfinity brand) and CenturyLink. King, whose district stretches into Summit Park, says the proposal is meant to protect customers in places like this.
“This bill is looking to limit or prevent the kind of abuse that happens or can happen in areas where providers with a monopoly, duopoly, or limited competition can … increase their profits by manipulating the access consumers can get,” King, the House minority leader, said. “In that sense, this is a consumer protection bill.”
Because FCC leadership is appointed by the sitting president, it’s possible that as soon as 2020, Pai’s rules could be rolled back as quickly as they came. The Utah Cable and Telecommunications Association says it supports federal legislation for more permanent internet regulations. In an emailed statement, CenturyLink spokesperson Linda M. Johnson said the company opposes state regulatory proposals like King’s because of the internet’s global nature and the provider’s concern over consistency in service.
“Consumers and businesses require a seamless and predictable internet experience,” Johnson wrote. “Every email, application and video should not be subject to multiple state jurisdictions.”
While large broadband providers have signaled their misgivings about King’s proposal, he says smaller players have voiced their approval.
The representative is far from alone. Similar plans have been unveiled in states like Washington and California, while governors and mayors across the country have signaled their intent to reinstate the previous standard of net neutrality at the local level as the Trump administration’s reforms take effect.
King said that he anticipates bipartisan support for Utah net neutrality legislation both on Capitol Hill and among the public, because he sees it as a regulation that would prove healthier for the internet service market in the long run.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, of the 65 bills in 29 states introduced so far with similar net neutrality aims as King’s proposal, only one was sponsored by a Republican lawmaker. The rest have been pushed by Democrats. Only three states — Washington, Oregon and Vermont — have passed net neutrality through legislation.
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