The Trump administration’s decision to repeal net neutrality regulations overseeing broadband companies went into effect today. This means that Internet service providers (ISPs) are now free to manipulate internet traffic based on content and third-party affiliation. This will seriously harm consumers, innovation, and civic engagement. It will fundamentally change how people access and use the internet by giving internet providers like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon the legal right to suppress political opinions they disagree with, slow down web content, and stifle innovation by start-ups.
ISPs can block or slow down access to any website of their choosing for any reason. They can charge consumers differently in order to direct access to favored Web content. For instance, a company like Verizon could decide to block or slow down access to a search engine like Google in order to force consumers to choose search engines they own, like Yahoo and AOL.
ISPs could block or slow down access to emerging start-ups in order to eliminate competition for their sister companies, which would be detrimental to the entrepreneurship that today is one of the staples of the Massachusetts economy.
Finally, ISPs could block access to Web content based on political reasons, which represents a dangerous threat to our democracy given that the Internet has given marginalized voices a platform to challenge centralized power.
In short, net neutrality repeal benefits big corporations over people, and that’s why I filed the Internet Freedom Act, a bill that would require ISPs to treat all online traffic equally in Massachusetts. The bill would prohibit ISPs from blocking, manipulating, or otherwise discriminating against legal Web content. It would also require telecommunications companies who enter into state contracts to abide by net neutrality regulations, and would require ISPs to disclose information about the management, performance, and commercial practices of their Internet services to ensure that consumers can make informed choices.
An open and free internet is critical to ensuring civic engagement, protecting consumers, and growing our economy, and I will work with my Senate colleagues to make sure that we pass net neutrality regulations in Massachusetts immediately.