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Jack Reed: We need legislation to protect Net Neutrality



Jack Martin, Jack Reed and Paola Prado

Net Neutrality, said Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed on Friday, is “a consumer right and it’s also a free speech right… If the proposed changes are made, then Internet service providers can tell consumers you have to pay to get traffic. Or they’re going to tell people who want to set up a website news service you have to pay us if you want to be as fast as the fastest.”

Reed was speaking at the Providence Public Library down town, “to discuss how repealing Net Neutrality could negatively impact consumers, businesses, and democracy and put people who can’t pay for preferential treatment online at a disadvantage.” Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chair Ajit Pai has planned a vote to repeal Net Neutrality next week. Reed wants the FCC to delay the vote until an investigation is completed into reports that bots impersonating Americans filed hundreds of thousands of phony comments to the FCC during the Net Neutrality policy making process, thus distorting the public record.

Paola Prado, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Communication at Roger Williams University called the FCC’s plans to repeal Net Neutrality “an affront to the First Amendment.

“The press today is no longer a synonym for print or broadcast,” said Prado. “The 21st Century press distributes on line. Any Federal regulation or deregulation that limits access to the press does so in defiance of our First Amendment rights.

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Paola Prado

“Let’s be clear: the repeal of Net Neutrality does not promote competition as the chair of the FCC claims. What it does is allow telecommunication conglomerates to filter and funnel Internet access for profit… the FCC will have basically made the information super highway into a pricey toll-road for those who can afford it.”

Reed held the event in the library because “the American Library Association (ALA) strongly opposes the proposed order on Net Neutrality and the negative impact it will have on those who use the Internet.” The ALA wrote, in a statement, “Libraries, our patrons and America’s communities will be at risk if the FCC repeals all protections contained in its 2015 Open Internet Order with no plans to replace with any enforceable rules. We strenuously disagree with the FCC’s actions and will continue to advocate for essential Net Neutrality protections.”

Providence Public Library Executive Director Jack Martin was on hand to introduce the Senator and speak about the importance of the Internet to library patrons.

If Net Neutrality is removed by the FCC, can it be undone?

“Oh yes. It can be undone through legislation,” said Reed. “The next step clearly is that Congress has to move quickly to pass legislation that would overturn the rule. If we don’t, then the rule takes effect, there are possible court challenges but at some point it might take effect, and we’re in that position where the super highway is now a toll road.”

Though Reed thinks there is an appetite in Congress to preserve Net Neutrality, the problem is that there “are so many near-term crises.

“The tax proposal that is ill advised, we have to keep the government open, we’ve got a debt ceiling, we’ve got lot’s of legislation, but once we get through that we’ve got to start focusing on issues like Net Neutrality.”


Providence joins nationwide protest to save Net Neutrality

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