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Net Neutrality Goes Stateside

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Spirited by the national elections, where Democrat victories are thought to be a major boon to Net Neutrality, the SaveTheInternet.com coalition, with the help of Google, are taking their cause state level. Yesterday, as Michigan’s state legislature was preparing to sail a local cable bill through, neutral Internet proponents laid their concerns on the steps of the Capitol.

The measure, called the Michigan Video Franchising Bill (HB 6456), was set for a lame duck vote in the Senate after passing the House by an overwhelming 80-21 vote. Critics allege the bill was virtually penned by AT&T, looking for a way to set non-neutral Internet roots somewhere, if not in Washington.

“The bill,” argues the Coalition, “would allow the telecommunications giant to gut consumer protections, cherry-pick which communities receive high-speed broadband and video service, dodge local community access requirements, and ignore Net Neutrality – the fundamental principle of the free and open Internet.”

The rally and press conference, held inside Michigan’s State Capitol building, is part of a larger state-by-state push organized by the Coalition. Representation from Google was there stating the company’s case in clear language.

“Consumers should benefit from full competition,” said Andrew McLaughlin, Google Sr. Policy Counsel. “What we’re asking for is very simple: protect the consumer by making sure telephone and cable companies don’t restrict the services that are available. Google would never have grown beyond a garage project if Internet providers had been able to block or slow access by individuals. It is essential for Michigan to preserve the Internet as an unmatched platform for innovation and job creation.”

Net Neutrality supporters say that since the telecommunications and cable industry have (assumedly) failed in Washington to press their interests, they’re turning to state level governments to lock them in where they can.

“This bill would make it easy for big telecom companies to ignore Michigan’s underserved areas and cherry-pick only the most profitable customers. To create a level playing field for all consumers, Michigan needs policies that build high-speed broadband and video networks in all communities,” said Mark Cooper, Director of Research at Consumer Federation of America.

The overarching concern, the worst-case scenario, is that free speech and free information access will be in some way affected by the legislation.

“Michigan’s legislation would allow phone companies like AT&T to seize more control of what families see and do online,” said Ben Scott, policy director for Free Press. “They tell legislators and the public that it will expand access to the Internet. What they don’t reveal is that unless Net Neutrality protections are added, these corporations will be able to abuse their role as gatekeepers to the Internet.”

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Net Neutrality Goes Stateside
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