Vermonters Urge Washington To Support An Open Internet

. . . Leahy Chairs VT Field Hearing On Impact Of FCC Proposal

BURLINGTON, Vt. (TUESDAY, July 1, 2014) – The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday held a field hearing on net neutrality titled, “Preserving an Open Internet: Rules to Promote Competition and Protect Main Street Consumers.”  Member statements, witness testimony and a webcast are available online.

The Impact Of An Open Internet Beyond The Beltway

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), author of the bicameral Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act that would support consumers by requiring the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to ban paid prioritization deals, invited a panel of witnesses representing a variety of viewpoints to testify on the issue of net neutrality.  Witnesses provided real-life accounts of how Internet rules impact everyday consumers and small businesses. The hearing comes as the FCC considers a proposed approach to new net neutrality rules that would threaten a free and open Internet.

The panels included three Vermont witnesses: Martha Reid, Vermont’s state librarian, Cabot Orton of the Vermont Country Store, and Lisa Groeneveld, chief operating officer and co-owner of Logic Supply Inc.  Former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, now with Common Cause, provided an expert perspective on the regulatory options available to the FCC to ensure an open Internet.

In his opening statement, Leahy noted that “like our country, which is protected by a Bill of Rights that guarantees our basic freedoms, the Internet needs concrete, fundamental protections to ensure that it is not abused by those with the power to do so.”  Leahy’s opening statement at Tuesday’s hearing can be read online.

Witnesses Call for Upholding A Free & Open Internet

An Internet controlled and managed for the benefit of the ‘haves’ discriminates against our rights not just as consumers but, more importantly, as citizens. Allowing powerful ISPs or giant Internet companies to control what we see and share on the Net is inimical to the health of our nation. If an ISP can slow down or block those sites who refuse to play the game, if they can decide that some good cause or advocacy group they disagree with can be voted off the Net, then we have starved the nourishing potential of this technology and truncated the rights of citizens to share in a communications revolution that should be more about We, the People than it is about the privileged few.” Former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps

“Internet resources must be both affordable for libraries and freely accessible to those we serve.  Without the Open Internet there is a danger that libraries will face higher service charges for so-called “premium” online information services. This would, in turn, place limitations on the amount or quality of information libraries can provide to their users… All Americans -- including the most disenfranchised citizens, those who would have no way to access the Internet without the library, need to be able to use Internet resources on an equal footing.” Martha Reid, Vermont State Librarian

“We don’t want to imagine an America with two Internets: a fast one for giant corporations and a slow one for everybody else. We don’t want to imagine being held for ransom by telecom behemoths and cable monopolies just to reach our customers with the same speed and convenience that global conglomerates enjoy. In our view, the proposed FCC rule changes would turn what is now a level playing field for businesses of all sizes into one where the biggest companies with the deepest pockets can get their website content to customers faster than everyone else.” Cabot Orton, Co-Proprietor, Vermont Country Store

“We know there are many technological, legislative and policy solutions to the challenges we face.  But without an Open and Fair Internet based on equal access, our business wouldn’t even exist today. We started Logic Supply with the money in our checking account and used it to buy motherboards, not preferred treatment for our website traffic.  In conclusion, we appear today to express our deep interest in ensuring an Open and Fair Internet based on equal access.” Lisa Groeneveld, COO of Logic Supply


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