How net neutrality vote could impact Utahns and Utah businesses

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (News4Utah) - The Federal Communications Commission is set to vote on a repeal of net neutrality on December 14th. Some Utahns and Utah companies are worried about how this could affect them. 

Under current net neutrality rules service providers can not throttle speeds, censor content, or give preference to any one website. If the rules are repealed there is a worry that companies could charge customers for faster access to their favorite sites. Another scenario would allow companies to sell "fast lane" access to websites so their content gets to customers faster.

Kristy Sevy is the Founder and CEO of FuzePlay. A Utah company which helps teach parents and kids about tech items so they can learn about them together. She relied heavily on the internet to try and answer her daughter's questions. She also relies on grassroots efforts and some digital advertising to get the word out about her company. 

"Well a pretty small fast lane for us since we're a small startup, boot straps," said Sevy. "So we don't have a huge budget for that."

Sevy also worries about what the rule change could mean for her daughter when it comes to fast access to learning materials online. Kristy started the company because she didn't have the answers to all her daughter's tech questions. She said frankly she can't believe it's even being considered.

Roger Timmerman is the Executive Director of Utopia Fiber, and notes that much of the innovation from small companies comes because they have an even playing field with net neutrality

"Well the last few years have been the best years ever in terms of innovative services and technologies on the internet," said Timmerman

Those in favor of the rule changes have argued that the internet as it is has stifled expansion of fiber networks. They believe the new rules will give incentive for companies to expand and improve networks. 

It's unclear how service providers would respond to the new rules. In countries like Portugal, customers have to pay for packages for access to their favorite sites and services. Such as social media, or video streaming services. Other options for companies would include the fast lane model. 

Providers might also keep things the same due to the fact these are only FCC rules that are changing, and not laws in Congress. A vote by the commission in 2015 kept the rules the way they are now. Experts note they could change with another administration.

Statement from Kathy Grillo, Verizon senior vice president and deputy general counsel, public policy and government affairs: 

“We’re very encouraged by Chairman Pai’s announcement today that the FCC will move forward next month to restore the successful light-touch regulatory framework for internet services. For decades, the internet flourished under a bipartisan regulatory approach that allowed it to operate, grow and succeed free of unnecessary government controls. Two years ago, the FCC reversed course radically and put in place a set of rules based on monopoly train and telephone regulation from previous centuries. That outdated approach was unnecessary and out of step with today’s dynamic and competitive internet. It undermined investment and innovation, and posed a significant threat to the internet’s continued ability to grow and evolve to meet consumers’ needs. Now, the FCC appears poised for a much-needed return to the approach that fostered so many years of internet openness and innovation. 

“At Verizon, we continue to strongly support net neutrality and the open internet. Our company operates in virtually every segment of the internet. We continue to believe that users should be able to access the internet when, where, and how they choose, and our customers will continue to do so. We are also confident that the FCC will reinstate a framework that protects consumers’ access to the open internet, without forcing them to bear the heavy costs from unnecessary regulation that chases away investment and chills innovation. We look forward to reviewing the draft order after it is released.”

Statement by  Dave Watson, President and CEO, Comcast Cable in Open Internet: 

"This spring, I made a promise that Comcast customers will enjoy strong net neutrality protections, both then and in the future, regardless of any action taken by the FCC.  Today, as the FCC circulates its draft Open Internet order, I want to reaffirm that promise.   

Comcast does not and will not block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content. We will continue to make sure that our policies are clear for consumers and we will not change our commitment to these principles.  That is how we run our Internet business and it is a key part of our core network and business practices. 

As my colleague David Cohen said today, we will review the details of the FCC’s draft order but we are encouraged by the elimination of the outdated Title II regime. As I previously said "there are better ways to guarantee net neutrality than classifying all broadband businesses under Title II public utility regulations." The FCC’s proposal to regulate broadband as an information service – changing the Internet back to how it was treated for most of the past two decades – does not end an open Internet.  It does not change Comcast’s customer protections. In fact, the FCC proposes to require us to continue to keep customers clearly informed on our net neutrality practices.  

Comcast will continue to support net neutrality protections for our customers."

At the time this article was written, AT&T had not responded to request for statement. 


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