By Public News Service
STEVENS POINT, Wis. – Protests are scheduled Thursday in Madison and cities all across the nation to demonstrate public support for net neutrality.
At issue is whether the Internet should be regulated like a public utility, with equal access for all content providers.
The Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to vote next week on net neutrality, or what the FCC calls Internet freedom, and is expected to do away with net neutrality.
State Rep. Katrina Shankland of Stevens Point is one of many Democrats who signed a letter to the FCC asking that net neutrality be upheld.
Shankland says people in rural areas will be among the hardest hit if the rule is dumped.
"People in rural Wisconsin not only already are suffering from very slow broadband speeds, but also, across the state, Wisconsin ranks 49th in the nation for broadband speed,” she points out. “We're already well behind the times when it comes to being able to access the Internet at a reasonable speed."
Those who argue for abandoning net neutrality say it stifles innovation by over-regulating Internet service providers, and that dropping the rule will create more competition among providers and result in lower prices.
Those who support the rule predict exactly the opposite will happen.
Shankland is among those who maintain the Internet should be treated as a public utility, where all content providers – from giants like Netflix and Facebook to small businesses and bloggers – should have equal access.
"There's no one in the nation who doesn't rely on Internet for something – whether it's doing business, accessing the Internet to talk with friends and family, whether it's checking on the news – almost everyone, virtually everyone at this point, uses the Internet."
Shankland says tossing out net neutrality is all about the almighty dollar, and maintains that's the driving force behind the FCC's upcoming decision.
"I think the answer is to make money,” she states. “I think some of these companies want to slow down the Internet and charge people.
“And I think people are going to be very upset when they realize that's the case, and they're going to have a hard time with it because they're already struggling to make ends meet.
“They don't have an extra 10, 50 or $100 down the road, to pay for their Internet."