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Wyden, others sound off on net neutrality issues


Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., continued his fight Tuesday on Capitol Hill against what he calls an assault on the open internet. Many may not understand what the phrase ‘net neutrality’ means, but the new Republican administration has a chance to change the way we pay for internet service.

In 2015, the Obama administration defined the internet as a utility service, like water and electricity. Included in this was a rule preventing service providers from blocking or discriminating against internet traffic.

If net neutrality were to be abolished, it would allow providers to charge extra for faster internet service.

That means big companies like Netflix could make their website and services faster than others, essentially driving out new, smaller competition. Those companies who can’t afford the better packages would have slower load times for those visiting their pages.

Wyden explained Tuesday morning why he’s fighting to protect the open internet.

“(It’s) important for education, important for healthcare,” he said. “But in particular it’s important because this has been the engine of innovation this century.”

Wyden introduced the first net neutrality bill in 2006.

The new chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, has said he disagrees with the decision two years ago to reclassify broadband as a utility. He’s already stopped nine companies from providing discounted high-speed internet service to low-income individuals.

Wyden is wary of Pai’s priorities.

“He is prepared to do the bidding of the big cable companies, at the expense of consumers,” Wyden said.

One local internet provider’s take on net neutrality concerns small businesses trying to get a foothold among the current giants.

“From a business perspective, will the next Netflix or the next Facebook or the next big idea not enter the internet on an even playing field?”asked BendTel Chief Information Officer Tim Howe.

There are critics of net neutrality, though. Dan Cecchini, the chief information officer at Central Oregon Community College, said he’s in favor of deregulating the internet service industry and getting rid of net neutrality.

One of his main reasons — because there are certain things we should prioritize, like robotic surgery for example, that deserve more bandwidth than everyday internet surfing.

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