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Efforts to preserve in Net Neutrality in Rhode Island undermined by backroom deals and business interests



In response to the Rhode Island House not allowing a vote on the net neutrality bill unanimously passed by the Rhode Island Senate, S2008, a small rally, organized by Rhode Island Rights, was held at the State House. “Without net neutrality, many less-wealthy people would be kept in relative ignorance, as cable and phone companies could sell them low-quality Internet connections that make it hard for people to access some websites,” writes Randall Rose. “Rhode Island businesses would lose out if we don’t have net neutrality, since out-of-state cable and phone companies could exploit a Rhode Island business by saying, ‘Pay us extra or our customers will see your website loading slower than your competitors’ websites.'”

Rhode Island State Representative Aaron Regunberg (Democrat, District 4, Providence) has been a leader on this issue. The legislation that passed the Senate was killed in the House, “And we know exactly who killed it,” said Regunberg. “I don’t know about you, but I am tired of seeing entrenched, wealthy interests rig the system for their benefit. We know it’s not just Net neutrality,” added Regunberg.

“Drug companies, fossil fuel polluters, the NRA, Pay Day lenders – they are all engaged in these backroom deals – those folks who can write big checks – to stop the fights the people are demanding and that’s exactly what the cable companies and internet service providers did this year, using their connections and resources to drown out the voices of working and middle class families all across Rhode island who have demanded that our state step up to protect the Internet status as one of the few remaining public squares where everyone is on the same level.”

Can we please ask a favor?

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“They claimed that passing Net Neutrality would make Rhode Island an outlier,” said Randall Rose, dissecting the House leadership’s reasons for not acting on the Senate bill. “They said that if [Rhode Island] passes a Net Neutrality law, it would send an unwelcoming signal to Business about locating in Rhode Island.”

Rose countered that Net Neutrality helps businesses, rather than hurt them, unless your business is a cable companies or internet service provider.

The next three commentaries are from people who rely on the Internet for their business, activist and artistic pursuits.

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Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade. Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading.