Jim Loter is the Director of Digital Engagement for the City of Seattle
On February 20th I was honored to have the opportunity to testify before the Washington State Senate Energy, Environment, and Technology Committee about the importance of net neutrality to the consumers of Seattle. I made the point that net neutrality was essential to achieving the digital equity and inclusion goals of the City of Seattle. Loss of net neutrality protections, I argued, would adversely affect lower income residents and business owners who cannot afford to pay higher rates simply to access certain sites, content, or services.
You can watch the full testimony here.
I was overjoyed when, 2 weeks later, Governor Jay Inslee signed House Bill 2282 to protect net neutrality rules at the state level and ensure that internet providers cannot manipulate internet speeds and access to content. The Washington Open Internet Law law was the first of its kind in the nation. The law will prohibit companies that offer internet services from blocking legal content and applications; it will prohibit them from throttling internet traffic; and it will prohibit them from prioritizing certain traffic in exchange for payment (“paid prioritization”). The law also requires internet providers to disclose to their customers information about network management practices, performance, and terms. The law goes into effect on June 6th.
At the national level. the US Senate is moving to a vote later this month that could block the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality. Today – Wednesday, May 9th – marks the start of a national “Red Alert” campaign on net neutrality. Many popular web sites will be displaying information designed to raise awareness and urge elected officials to vote to overturn the FCC’s decision. You can read more the Red Alert at https://www.battleforthenet.com and find out how to contact your elected officials about this upcoming vote.
Given that this week is also Digital Inclusion Week, it is especially important to remember that the loss of net neutrality is most detrimental to those who are already underserved by technology. Net neutrality is a critical component in ensuring that the most vulnerable populations have access to the information and services they need to fully participate in their community and in civic life. Here in Seattle, our commitment to digital inclusion via our Digital Equity Initiative and our commitment to preserving net neutrality go hand-in-hand. Help us by speaking up and by contacting your elected officials in DC about this important issue.
On November 3, Mayor Tim Burgess joined more than 200 mayors and county leaders across the country in signing a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai expressing their concern about the FCC’s lack of transparency and the inadequate level of local government representation on the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC).
The BDAC is conducting important proceedings about the regulations covering wireline and wireless broadband infrastructure deployment that could result in adverse consequences to Seattle and other local communities. Elected officials on the letter believe more must be done to create the proper balance between the business needs of the communications industry and the legitimate interests of local governments. To read more about their concerns, and the letter, visit the National Association of Counties.
Today, the City of Seattle’s Chief Technology Officer Michael Mattmiller condemned the proposal by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai to repeal net neutrality rules. Mattmiller encourages FCC commissioners to vote against this proposal and keep the internet open and fair for all to use.
“The fight for strong net neutrality protections is important for the internet to remain a space for creativity, innovation and free speech,” said Mattmiller. “Net neutrality is necessary to protect Seattle’s consumers and ensure all internet content is equally accessible.”
Current FCC net neutrality regulations forbids carriers from slowing down internet speed and content delivery. Pai, whom President Donald Trump appointed to lead the FCC in January 2017, believes the Obama era regulations prohibit the industry from expanding and investing in other networks.
In February 2015, under President Barack Obama, the FCC ruled in favor of net neutrality by reclassifying broadband as a common carrier under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. Those rules went into effect in June of 2015.
“A fair and open internet is vital to everyday life in our communities, not only in Seattle but across the country,” said Jim Loter, Director of Digital Engagement for Seattle Information Technology. “It is also critical for ending the digital divide and ensuring all Seattle residents have access to the tools to be successful.”
The City of Seattle was one of 50 cities that participated in the Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality this past summer. More than 5-million people commented on the possibility to end net neutrality on the FCC’s website. To learn more about Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality, visit www.seattle.gov/netneutrality.