Statewide Protests Planned in Support of Net Neutrality

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Suzanne Potter – Commonwealth News Service

BOSTON – Protesters are gathering in seven Massachusetts communities Wednesday to support a free and open Internet as part of 600 events nationwide to protect net neutrality.

The Federal Communications Commission plans to vote Dec. 14 on whether to lift rules that keep Internet service providers from offering faster speeds to sites that can afford to pay higher fees, a move that could put small business and nonprofit websites at a big disadvantage.

Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, says providers might start partitioning off the Internet with packages that only give people access to specific sites.

“The fear is that without network neutrality, without that protection, the Internet service providers will have more power to charge you more to access certain sites or certain services,” he points out.

“Historically, the example is that you might get charged more to use Netflix. ”

Large Internet providers have promised to be fair and keep consumers’ best interests in mind.

But Mitchell worries providers could slow down connection speeds for website owners that don’t pay higher fees, thus driving viewers to other, faster sites.

Protests in Massachusetts are planned in Boston, Falmouth, Hadley, Holyoke, Hyannis, Lowell and Pittsfield.

Find out more about local protests at Ajit Pai, who was appointed FCC chairman by President Donald Trump, says the market will curb any abuses.

But Mitchell notes that in many towns, big Internet service providers have a near monopoly.

“Most Americans only have one choice in high quality Internet access,” he points out.

“Beyond that, they have to either take a lower quality service option or move.”

In more than 30 states, local authorities have taken the matter into their own hands, organizing municipal telephone companies that compete with the big ISPs but are required to operate in the public interest and seek to offer reasonably priced high speed Internet.

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