Attorney General Andy Beshear says Kentucky has the authority to ensure Kentucky families have high-quality internet despite current federal rollbacks of net neutrality.
Beshear is among more than 20 state attorneys general fighting actions by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that retreat from previous broadband protections requiring internet providers to remain “neutral” in the services it provides to customers.
Beshear said the FCC’s net neutrality repeal order still allows states, as internet consumers, to create net neutrality though their purchasing power, and at least five governors have taken a bipartisan stance by signing executive orders requiring all internet service providers contracting with their state to adhere to net neutrality for all of their state’s consumers.
“The internet is a part of our state and national infrastructure that is just a critical as our roads and bridges,” Beshear said. “Small business, school districts and rural hospitals rely on the internet to help Kentucky families earn a living, educate our children and to provide critical medical services in every part of our state. We cannot give the power to slow, change or even shut down these services to four major companies and simply trust they will do the right thing.”
The attorney general is calling on the executive branch to offer these same protections to Kentuckians through an executive order similar to ones recently issued by governors in Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, New York and Vermont.
“If a broadband or mobile internet service provider wants to do business with the state, we should require they adhere to certain internet neutrality principles,” Beshear said. “We want to attract companies that are willing to provide reliable, high-quality broadband internet service to all Kentuckians.”
Montana’s executive order requires service providers to publicly disclose to all of its customers accurate information, such as cellular data and wireless broadband transport, for consumers to make “informed choices” regarding all services.
Key Kentucky business and educational services rely on a free and open internet to help the state’s economy flourish on a national and international stage, Beshear said, which is one reason he is suing the FCC over its rollback of net neutrality regulations.
The FCC published its final ruling rolling back net neutrality in the Feb. 22 Federal Register. Pursuant to the rule, the effective date for the rule is 30 or 60 days after the Office of Budget Management approval is complete, which could take anywhere from several months to a year.
Beshear and the coalition have their lawsuit before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The group maintains the FCC’s action violates federal laws.
“I’m opposing the repeal of net neutrality because of the destructive nature it will have on every Kentuckian from farmers to college students who use free and open internet to thrive and prosper,” Beshear said. “As a state and as a nation, we cannot turn our backs on the hard working people of this country by letting the federal government walk all over them and take away their level playing field.”
Beshear said his office continues to receive comments from Kentucky wanting broadband protections.
· A Sadieville resident wrote, “Getting rid of net neutrality endangers this [a well-informed populace.] On top of which, the elimination of net neutrality is likely to add even more costs to our use of the internet – something that could and should be used to enrich our lives. Being in a rural part of Scott County, I am already paying a premium for limited services.”
· A Morehead resident wrote, “Equal access to the internet is critical for education and economic opportunity. I fear rural folks will be disadvantaged the most if the FCC decision isn’t overturned.”
· A Louisville resident wrote, “Under the revised rules, corporations will have control over the internet, the ability to pick winners and losers among small businesses, and decide what content consumers can view or create online.”
· A Hopkinsville resident wrote, “I achieved what I have through the internet, my high school accolades and my college grades through the internet. My generation needs it. My family and friends need it.”
Beshear said if an executive order is issued, it is a “first step to safeguard net neutrality and take a stand on the issue for the people of Kentucky.”