GREAT LAKES BEACON

Gubernatorial Hopefuls Sound off on Net Neutrality

Despite that 83 percent of voters support keeping net neutrality, the Federal Communications Commission has voted to end the policy that ensures a your internet service provider only charges you for a speed of internet and not what you do on it.

The decision will affect Internet access for every person and every business in Michigan and across the county.

The FCC met today to vote on what the proposal by FCC Chair Ajit Pai, previously an attorney for Verizon, to get rid of a policy that has been in place since 2015 that essentially ensures equal access to internet for all, whether that’s people of color, small businesses, families or individuals.

The vote to end net neutrality went along party lines, with the three Republicans on the commission in support and two Democrats opposed.

The Great Lakes Beacon reached out to Michigan’s gubernatorial candidates for a request for comment on the matter, but only Democrats Abdul El-Sayed, Gretchen Whitmer and Shri Thanedar immediately responded, as well as Republican Patrick Colbeck. (Author’s Note: We will update this story if that changes).

“Net neutrality is about equal access to the internet — something that has become a necessity in this day and age,” El-Sayed said in a statement. “I oppose the assault on net neutrality led by corporate giants who stand to benefit most from an unequal internet and, as governor, I will fight to do our part in Michigan to maintain an equal, neutral internet for our communities.”

Whitmer, in a separate statement, said, “Fair and equal access to reliable high-speed internet is essential to Michigan’s future. Today’s FCC vote to repeal the protections for Net Neutrality is bad for Michigan. For the sake of our economy and to protect our consumers, we must continue the fight for free and open internet and expand broadband access across our state.”

And Thanedar, in his statement, said he believes the repeal “will be devastating for Michigan’s small business community as well as K-12 and higher education institutions.”

“My fear is that eliminating net neutrality protections will allow internet service providers to block, throttle and make it more difficult to access lawful content,” Thanedar said. “This will harm Michigan’s students and education institutions, particularly those in rural communities and low-income families with limited access to high-speed Internet service. We cannot allow big corporations to profit off of an open and free Internet.”

Colbeck spokesperson AnneMarie Schieber Dykstra responded, “Patrick Colbeck is focused on his Principled Solutions campaign and issues facing the state, like jobs and taxes, and so, it is probably best for others to comment.”

Pressed that the use of the Internet affects everyone and the FCC had classified net neutrality as an issue of “heavy regulation” versus not, per Chair Pai, Dkystra added, “The issue has not come up in the campaign. Voters seem to care about three things: jobs, taxes and infrastructure.”

Congress may enact new rules after this decision if it decides to do so, though it is not immediately clear if that will be the case. But the same type of corporate interests that lobbied for the end of net neutrality have also donated heavily to members of congress, including Michigan’s delegation.

According to data collected by the GLB using information from OpenSecrets.org, no congressperson has received more money from the telecommunications companies expected to most benefit from the end of net neutrality – AT&T, Comcast and Verizon – combined than U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-Saint Joseph).

Between the 2012 and upcoming 2018 election cycles, Upton collected a total of $114,000 in donations, the records show.

Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg of Tipton comes in second with $54,500 between the same timeframe, and Republican former U.S. Rep. Dave Camp ranked third, despite his departure from office by the 2016 election cycle, at $42,000 in combined donations.

Immediately following the vote, reports indicated, New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he intends to sue the FCC over its decision to gut net neutrality, as did Washington state’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

“Yesterday I sent a letter to the FCC asking them to delay their vote gutting net neutrality. Unfortunately, they did not,” Ferguson said in a statement. “Today, I am announcing my intention to file a legal challenge to the FCC’s decision to roll back net neutrality, along with attorneys general across the country.”

It was not immediately clear if Michigan’s attorney general, Bill Schuette, who is also running for the Republican nomination for governor in 2018, will join those challenging the FCC. The GLB is awaiting comment from a spokesperson and will update as soon as that information becomes available.

Danielle Emerson

Danielle Emerson