tc_seal120The Legislature's Government Operations Committee is recommending that the County Legislature take a firm stand on the Net Neutrality issue, urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to "establish a strong set of rules that provide for a neutral Internet."

The FCC is currently taking public comment on proposed rules that could create exclusive Internet 'fast lanes' that would allow for a tiered Internet and provide telecommunication companies the ability to control the market for Internet bandwidth.

The committee, without dissent (Legislator Dan Klein was excused), joined its Broadband Subcommittee in recommending that the Legislature come out firmly against any such rules, and "call upon the FCC and federal officials to assess the level of competition in broadband Internet access and take steps to ensure that customers have continued access to a neutral network," putting in place rules to eliminate discrimination and "provide fair and equal opportunity for users of every size, regardless of any special relationships with Internet providers."

The proposal, initiated by the Broadband Subcommittee,  is  intended "to urge (the FCC) to do something good," subcommittee member Scott Brim told legislators.

The measure states that Internet customers have the right to an Internet that is non-discriminating, or neutral, according to source or destination, and that a "neutral" Internet is vital to those in rural areas such as Tompkins County—providing users the freedom to access not only content services, applications, and devices of choice, but also entrepreneurial development resources and access to e-commerce solutions that serve to eliminate geographic barriers.  Absent a "neutral" Internet, the resolution continues, "the playing field will no longer be level, turning this valuable open resource into a private toll road, with high subscription fees and other costs," and vastly limiting the widespread opportunities the Internet affords.

Referring to the County's involvement in the award-winning effort to extend the benefits of Internet access to all areas of the county to ensure county residents full participation in modern society, the proposal cautions that the County's endeavors are now threatened by proposals designed to allow Internet service  providers to charge differently for online traffic of the same type, giving some enterprises competitive advantage over others whenever it seems "commercially reasonable" to do so—a hazy concept that the FCC must abandon.

The deadline for submission of comments to the FCC is September 15.  The full Legislature is scheduled to consider the measure September 2.