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April 17, 2018

Next Week: The Beginning of the End of Net Neutrality

Next Monday, April 23, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will take its first steps toward rolling back protections that preserve the principles of net neutrality.

Why is that important?

If the FCC gets its way, we’ll lose access to the free and open internet that you and I have long enjoyed, and its repeal of net neutrality would hurt businesses, students, and people in rural communities.

What exactly is net neutrality?

Following public outcry in 2015, the FCC passed the Open Internet Order, which imposed “light-touch” regulations for the internet and preserved the principles of net neutrality.

Under that rule, Internet Service Providers?—?or “ISPs”?—?were required to treat all data they deliver to customers equally. Providers can’t block or “throttle” content, meaning they can’t speed up content for companies that pay for faster delivery to customers or slow down content if you don’t pay more.

Under net neutrality rules, all internet content is on a level playing field.

It means Netflix can’t get an edge over Amazon’s Prime Video by paying ISPs to stream their videos at a faster rate. And it keeps ISPs from breaking up the internet into website packages like cable providers do with television channels.

April 13, 2018?—?U.S. Senator Doug Jones hosts a student forum on net neutrality at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. April 13, 2018 -- U.S. Senator Doug Jones hosts a student forum on net neutrality at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

How did we get here?

Last December under new Chairman Ajit Pai’s leadership, the FCC repealed the Open Internet Order. It was meant to unwind rules that ensured the internet would remain open and free, as we’ve always known it to be.

ISPs are private, for-profit companies?—?it’s not unreasonable that they would want to maximize their profits, but it could come at the expense of consumers like you.

Why should it matter to you?

The FCC’s repeal of net neutrality is a threat to consumers, businesses, and students, and its implications go beyond your ability to watch Netflix.

It could limit access to high-quality resources that are useful for teachers, whether it’s online educational videos or websites with news, history, or other relevant materials.

That’s bad for schools with fewer resources or those in rural communities. Fortunately, the internet leveled that playing field because it didn’t matter if you lived in a wealthy school district or not. Students shouldn’t get shortchanged just because of the ZIP code where they live.

Net neutrality is also important for Alabama’s economy. Our farmers and rural agribusinesses rely on cutting-edge technology to make the most of the year’s crops.

The end of net neutrality could lead to increased costs for our farmers, raising costs on consumers, and threatening the livelihoods of our smaller and independent farmers.

Those are just a few important examples, but there are many unintended?—?and unknown?—?consequences of ending net neutrality.

What can be done?

One of the first pieces of legislation I co-sponsored when I came to the Senate was designed to protect our free and open internet.

It’s a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution that allows Congress to overturn federal regulatory actions with a simple majority vote. Currently, that proposal has 50 senators on board?—?but we only need one more.

We have to act and we have to do it quickly because the FCC will begin to dismantle its rules ensuring net neutrality starting next Monday, April 23.

I’m going to be a strong partner in this fight and I’ll keep reaching out to my colleagues to find common ground, but you have a lot of power in this conversation, too.

The time is now to speak out and make your voices heard to protect net neutrality before it’s too late.

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