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Group discusses net-neutrality repeal

  • U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen hosts a roundtable discussion with small business owners in Keene on Friday. The small group talked about how a federal decision to repeal net neutrality will affect business owners in the region.  Courtesy photo



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, January 08, 2018

A U.S. senator hosted a roundtable discussion with small business owners in Keene on Friday regarding a decision handed down by a federal commission that ended net neutrality.

Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, has expressed concern over the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to roll back Obama-era regulations that required Internet service providers to treat all web traffic equally. The commission approved the measure in December and released a final version of its plan late last week.

“I’m very concerned by the FCC’s decision to roll back net neutrality regulations, which will threaten equal access to an open and free internet,” Shaheen said in a news release after the commission voted on the measure in December.

Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, has publicly applauded the FCC’s decision to repeal net neutrality. He said he’s not convinced that the repeal will have the adverse impact that some are claiming.

“In a free market, it is the consumers that will ultimately make choices that will incentivize companies to provide a better product,” Sununu has said in reports. 

Consolidated Communications, the company that purchased FairPoint, said in a statement on Friday that it will “continue to protect our customers’ privacy and will not block or degrade service to any Internet locations” and said its “customers will continue to have unfettered access to all legal internet content.”  

Tom Strickland, president and co-owner of Sequoya Technologies LLC in Peterborough, participated in the roundtable discussion with Shaheen on Friday morning. Strickland said he is concerned about the FCC’s decision to end net neutrality.

“My take on this is that it’s much more important than we’re realizing,” Strickland said in an interview after the roundtable discussion.

He said this ruling could mean anything from broadband providers censoring content to imposing fees on content that competes with a product the internet provider wants to sell. Strickland says the average person might understand this most through a possible scenario that could play out with the streaming media and video-on-demand giant Netflix. He said under new rules, Comcast could decide to throttle bandwidth (intentional slowing of Internet by a service provider) to Netflix and create their own content as a way to compete. 

“And that's just the big example that everybody knows and there are thousands of others,” Strickland said.

Strickland said the decision could directly affect his small business, which provides complete IT support for businesses. Most of that work is done remotely through the internet. Much like the Netflix example, if Comcast decided they wanted to provide a similar service, they could throttle Strickland’s service and gain a competitive edge.

In theory, if that scenario actually played out, Strickland could change to a different internet service provider. But in rural areas like Peterborough, there aren’t many broadband options. Strickland’s business is located off of Route 202 in a fairly developed area. That means his business has more options when it comes to broadband providers than most, and still, there are only two; Comcast and FairPoint. Strickland said he has used FairPoint before, but its capacity doesn’t cut it for his business needs. That means Comcast is his only choice.

Many people who live or work in more rural areas in the Monadnock region only have access to one broadband provider. Strickland said he doesn’t foresee any other broadband companies coming to the area to offer competition any time soon either because implementing infrastructure is so expensive.

For now, he said, there’s not a whole lot people can do to push back on the FCC’s net neutrality decision.

“This is a regulatory problem, and we need a regulatory solution to this,” Strickland said.

New Hampshire’s all democratic delegation wrote a letter last month urging the  state’s Attorney General Gordon MacDonald to join other states across the country in a lawsuit aimed at protecting net neutrality rules.

In a December response, MacDonald said the office will not join the lawsuit. The letter reads that federal communications policy is outside of the jurisdiction and expertise of their office.

A trade group that represents more than 40 of the country’s largest tech companies, including Amazon, Google, and Netflix, announced on Friday that it plans to intervene in a lawsuit against the commission over its decision.

Abby Kessler can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 234 or akessler@ledgertranscript.com.