St. Paul – Last Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission reversed net neutrality protections that had been implemented at the federal level to keep the internet free and open. It is now up to the states to act to protect their residents.
Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.
Last session, Rep. Paul Thissen (DFL-Minneapolis) and Sen. Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park) championed a measure that required any internet or telecommunications company which seeks state permits, pole attachment agreements, easements, or state contracts, to live up to high consumer privacy standards. This measure passed with only one “no” vote. Yet, with nearly unanimous support, these protections were left out of the final Jobs & Energy bill. Rep. Thissen and Sen. Latz plan to press that issue in the 2018 legislative session and will add language that requires those companies also live up to these basic net neutrality principles:
Ensure neutrality on all public networks
Prohibit blocking of websites and applications
Protect against unreasonable discrimination
Prohibit paid prioritization
Prevent degradation of internet networks
Provide transparency and clear and robust mechanisms for resolving consumer and content provider complaints
Accommodate public safety
In addition to these principles, Rep. Thissen and Sen. Latz will press Minnesota state agencies to use their power as a consumer of internet and telecommunications services to favor companies that agree to abide by net neutrality principles. Rep. Thissen and Sen. Latz will also seek to beef-up and enforce general consumer protection laws to fight back against fraud, discrimination and anti-competitive behavior by the dominant internet and telecommunications companies so that all Minnesotans get equal access.
“The FCC’s decision to bow down to special interests in the telecommunications industry does not mean Minnesota has to fall in line. Our internet - an essential tool of economic prosperity and robust democracy - should not be up for sale to the highest bidder,” said Rep. Thissen. “Minnesota should and will protect its residents from the growing domination of a few huge companies. The steps outlined today start us down that path.”
"We are pursuing two principles to protect the interests of individual and business consumers as they access information and services through the internet: internet privacy and net neutrality. These principles are critical for privacy, innovation, fairness and democracy,” said Sen. Latz. “Our legislation keeps the power where it belongs: with the people -- the consumers of the Internet, without giving the big corporate ISPs control over the information we get."
Rep. Thissen and Sen. Latz said they will focus their efforts on expanding internet access and choices for consumers, wherever they live in Minnesota.