Donovan: If feds won’t do the right thing with net neutrality, then Colorado needs to step up (column)
In December, the Federal Communications Commission put our democracy and our economy at risk by voting to deregulate the internet and repeal the 2015 Net Neutrality rules. Net neutrality states that no internet service provider can block your access to any website or service for politically or financially motivated reasons.
Everyone deserves access to an open internet, and with access to internet becoming more and more of a necessity, those rules are more important than ever.
Opponents of net neutrality say that repealing this rule is a good thing: It breeds competition and allows consumer choice of product. I dare them to come and make that argument in rural Colorado, where the amount of choices for internet too often add up to zero. In fact, 30 percent of rural Coloradans don’t have access to high-speed internet.
The FCC’s vote on net neutrality gives telecom companies the justification to further refuse equal service to us simply because our buying power is less than that of our Front Range neighbors.
I was proud to sponsor legislation in the 2016 legislative session that requires insurers to cover telemedicine and telehealth in their services, something that helps to bring down the high costs of insurance. But, because of the FCC’s vote, we live in a world where telecom companies can throttle, eliminate access to or charge a high premium for health-care services simply because a profit margin now exists to do so.
And, we’ve all witnessed the consequences that partisan media can have on our ability to discern fact from fiction. Now imagine your internet provider favors one political belief over another and there’s nothing stopping them from making sure you only see that perspective. That’s not consumer choice. That’s bias, and it’s bad for our society.
That’s why I was proud to introduce the Open Internet Customer Protections in Colorado Act in the Senate. This bill barred funding from the state to any internet service provider found to break the 2015 Net Neutrality rules. By codifying those rules in Colorado law, Colorado would have been on the front lines of guaranteeing access to a free internet.
This would have given rural schools the same resources to teach a world-class education as urban schools; rural hospitals the same tools to treat patients as urban hospitals; and small businesses the same access to succeed in a global economy as urban small businesses. Making sure the big guys can’t price us out of getting an education or starting the business is well in line with a duty to preserve the right to the pursuit of happiness and the American dream.
This bill was defeated in committee on party lines, but the fight for an open and equitable internet is not over. Protecting consumers in this way is an idea that all of us — Republicans, Democrats and independents — can get behind. Government should work for the people, not special interests. That’s why it’s time to put Coloradans over profits and pass our own net neutrality rules.
Kerry Donovan, of Vail, is the state senator of Senate District 5, which represents Chaffee, Delta, Eagle, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Lake and Pitkin counties.