You go on the internet to check Facebook, watch your favorite TV show, and much more. The last thing you want are websites taking longer to load or for the Internet Service Provider (ISP) to charge you to view the content. Without net neutrality that could happen. Last December, the Federal Communications Commission repealed net neutrality and the rollback is scheduled to go into effect on Monday, April 23rd. Now ISPs could block, slow down or prioritize content on their networks. This is why I am cosponsoring legislation with Assemblymember, Patricia Fahy that will ensure ISPs follow net neutrality rules here in New York.
First, net neutrality is needed in New York to make sure all websites are free and accessible. Without net neutrality, ISPs could ask consumers to pay a premium to fast track the streaming of certain websites they know users like or visit frequently. In turn, ISPs could slow other sites down, which is known as throttling. What we view online should not be dictated by big companies but users. GfK, one of the largest market research organizations in the world, found in a recent survey that 55% of all US consumers understand what net neutrality is and of that group, 72% are in favor of it.
Second, small businesses could be harmed without net neutrality. ISPs could prioritize paid content, meaning small businesses would no longer have a level online playing field with big chains. If small businesses do not pay up, their products or ads may not be visible to consumers, or their content may be on sites that take longer to load. Small businesses depending on internet traffic will likely take a financial hit. In August of 2017, the American Sustainable Business Council sent a letter on behalf of more than 500 small businesses across the U.S to the F.C.C. warning them that repealing net neutrality would be “disastrous” for American businesses.
Schools and libraries also depend on a free and open internet to give all their students access to a world of knowledge. What will happen in low-income districts when students go to use an internet that inflicts fees and throttling? According to a recent Pew Research study, 5 million mostly low-income, school-aged children do not have access to the internet, which means they likely access it in school or at a public library. We cannot jeopardize any student’s free access to the internet to learn and check facts.
Governor Cuomo’s executive order is similar to my legislation on net neutrality, and I fully support it. However, we still need legislation codifying net neutrality principles into law, which prevent ISPs from getting richer in our state at the cost of consumers. That is why my bill will allow New York’s Public Service Commission (PSC) to strip any ISP of their state contracts if they do not meet certain reporting requirements on net neutrality.
If we want to protect the internet for generations to come in New York then state lawmakers need to support net neutrality. New York should join Washington and Oregon at the forefront of this battle for a free and open internet. We need to come together and decide that fair access to the internet for all New Yorkers is a priority worth protecting by law.