Wyden, Bonamici announce new fight for net neutrality
Oregon Democrats are boosting their bandwidth in support of "net neutrality" — betting that internet users will support a push to enshrine open internet principles into law.
The battle in D.C. follows a Federal Communications Commission decision in December that allowed Comcast, CenturyLink and other internet service providers to charge more for higher-quality service or to stream different types of data.
Supporters of the Obama-era rule say it prevented carriers from discriminating against content or companies they don't like — while opponents argue that broadband providers need the freedom to be competitive and offer consumers choices.
But in a broadside blast against the FCC and its chairman, Ajit Pai, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, described the rollback as putting Americans "on a path to digital serfdom."
"Net neutrality means after you pay your internet access fee, you get to go where you want — when you want — and how you want," Wyden said at a press conference. "What Mr. Pai wants is really just a wish list for the deep pockets of the information aristocracy."
The U.S. Senate passed on Wednesday, May 16, a bill that would put net neutrality rules back on the books, with three Republicans joining their blue-suited colleagues across the aisle. Now the fight turns to the U.S. House, where Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici is among those signing on to a petition that would force a vote on the legislation.
"Having an open and fair internet isn't a luxury. It's not a privilege. It is a necessity," said Bonamici, a Democrat representing most of Washington, Columbia, Yamhill and Clatsop counties. "We're going to keep fighting until we get it done."
Sen. Wyden and Rep. Bonamici were joined by a chorus of local Democrats, student leaders and community organizers for the discussion at Hillsdale Library in Southwest Portland on Friday, May 25.
State Rep. Jennifer Williamson, D-Southwest Portland, touted her shepherding of a 2018 law that requires state agencies and departments to not buy internet coverage from contractors who throttle access to certain types of data or apps.
Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Meieran is advocating for a new feasibility study of a publicly-owned municipal broadband network, which she says would be operated "at cost, not for profit."
"It's an equity issue," Meieran noted in an interview. "It is potentially feasible and we need to answer that question for our county."
Meieran wants the county to chip in $150,000 for the study, with the other half coming from local cities. She's "cautiously optimistic" that other commissioners will back the budget amendment too.
Students are also throwing in a shoulder of support.
Eva Augst, a Lakeridge High School junior in Lake Oswego, says students use the internet "basically every day" for research and online homework, plus educational tools like Google Classroom.
"Social media is a great way for students to get their voices heard and influence other people," she commented. "Having restricted access to it is going to be pretty hard for some students to deal with."
"My entire computer science class was reacting (to net neutrality) so much more than about anything that wasn't video games," added Gabriella Sewell, a senior at Wilson High School in Portland.
Despite all the storm and thunder, most Oregonians probably haven't noticed much stalling on the information superhighway, because the new rules don't take effect until June 11. Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has joined with many other states to file a lawsuit that would stop the FCC's new net rules as well.