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Attention Concerned Montana Businesses - Your opportunity to add your name to this Net Neutrality letter from The Montana Governor's Office of Economic Development.

Reader Comments

December 15, 2017View for printing

Hi everyone, as you're all likely aware, yesterday the FCC reversed net neutrality protections. This move opens the door for internet service providers to discriminate on the content they allow their customers to see and is in our view, potentially massively damaging to Montana's economy. Unfortunately, there's little we can do without Attorney General Tim Fox's buy in and so far, we don't quite have it. We've written the attached letter in an attempt to bring this issue to the forefront in Montana and show a movement behind defending net neutrality. Montana should be joining the 17+ other states that have promised to join the legal fight against the repeal and we need your support to do so.

Would you lend your name or the name of your company/constituency to the letter and/or call the Attorney General's office to show your support? We intend to have the letter published in one or more major news publications in Montana. If you're comfortable being a part of this, please reply to me by 9am Monday morning and let me know with the company or name you'd like displayed on the letter. Please also feel free to pass this along to other businesses you know that might be willing to jump on board.

Sincerely,

Ken Fichtler

Chief Business Development Officer

Governor's Office of Economic Development

State of Montana

Ken.Fichtler@mt.gov

Office: (406) 444-5470

Mobile: (406) 600-3595

*****************

Yesterday, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) repealed net neutrality rules in decision that puts the internet as we know it in very real jeopardy. For the entirety of the existence of the internet, anyone with access has been free to build websites and other technology on it. The internet has been open for anyone to visit the websites they want and everyone has been free to conduct commerce. With the loss of net neutrality, that will no longer be the case. Now, internet service providers (ISPs) will be able to charge consumers extra fees to visit certain websites, slow down your browsing if you stream too much video, even block access to some websites. The internet is fundamental to overcoming the urban-rural divide as it gives all businesses equal access to consumers across the world. It's vital for education and to keeping Montana competitive with the rest of the world.

The Federal Communications Commission is attempting to spin the story of the repeal of net neutrality as a removal of regulation over private business, when in fact, the internet has always been open and unregulated. The only regulations were those on internet service providers that prevented them from establishing fast lanes for preferred companies and from blocking other services. The rules ensured that the internet was a place where innovation and free speech flourished.

Anthony Cochenour, founder and CEO of Hoplite Industries in Bozeman said, "Since its commercialization in 1993, internet access has shifted from being a fascinating privilege, to become a defining differentiator for modern societies. In this era of flagging consumer protections, the FCC's repeal of net neutrality presupposes that all telecommunications companies, and ISPs will support the free flow of information on the internet. With much of the world's internet traffic transiting the United States, the FCC's decision flies in the face of free speech at a global level. We should no more take for granted our First Amendment rights than we should assume profit-focused corporations will preserve our unfettered access to information. We must preserve net neutrality, and avoid erecting artificial boundaries that may ultimately divide one of humanity's greatest achievements."

The fight isn't over yet, however. Governor Bullock is exploring a range of options in response to the FCC's troubling move, as are other states across the country. So far, over 17 states have promised to fight for net neutrality - either through state-level lawmaking or by joining a class action lawsuit being brought by the state of New York against the FCC. The State of Montana, through the Attorney General's office, could join this lawsuit.

If you'd like Montana to take a stand in support net neutrality, please make your voice heard by calling the Attorney General's office at (406) 444-2016 and reaching out to Montana's congressional delegation. As always, remember to be polite, respectful and part of the solution.

Sincerely,

Ken Fichtler

Chief Business Development Officer

State of Montana Governor's Office of Economic Development

***

And the undersigned businesses:

Hoplite Industries

Treasure State Internet


Reader Comments:




On behalf of Montana's rural telecom providers, who invest nearly $100 million a year in deploying advanced broadband infrastructure in one of the highest cost, least densely populated regions in the nation, I urge you NOT to join Mr. Fichtler's crusade to re-impose heavy-handed, ex ante, discriminatory regulations based on imaginary bugaboos. The Internet came to be, as did a host of innovative broadband products and services, WITHOUT any "net neutrality" rules. The Obama-era FCC imposed net neutrality rules in 2015 based on hypothetical speculation. The result has hindered investment and innovation. Ironically, while Montana's rural telecom providers have not and do not discriminate, violate customer privacy or engage in anticompetitive behavior, the proponents of net neutrality rules--"edge" providers like Google, Facebook, Amazon et al.--regularly engage in the very practices they rail against. (Google was fined $2Billion in Europe for anticompetitive practices.) We need regulatory parity--rules that apply equitably to all players in the Internet ecosystem. We cannot afford to have the government pick winners and losers--consumers are the ultimate losers in that game. As the Obama-era chairman of the Federal Trade Commission wrote in the Wall St. Jrnl., "Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are now expressing interest in pursuing net-neutrality legislation. If they can get beyond partisanship and focus on practical solutions, Congress could cement a meaningful and permanent resolution to an issue that should have been resolved a long time ago. In the meantime though, the sky isn't falling. Consumers will remain protected, and the internet will continue to thrive." I would have appreciated a call from the Governor's Chief "Development" officer prior to his jumping on a bandwagon that embraces a 1930's regulatory framework and would restrict innovation and competition in Montana--presumably activities that a chief development officer would embrace rather than oppose.


Mr. Friess mentions "The Obama-era FCC imposed net neutrality rules in 2015 based on hypothetical speculation. The result has hindered investment and innovation."

It would prove helpful to know specifically which investments were hindered due to net neutrality rules. The hindered investments seem to be as hypothetical as the bugaboos.

While it seems to be common sense that the rules should be applied equally across the board, some of Mr. Feiss's reasoning appears circular. He seems to be saying that we need it and yet we should not demand it because it is hindering something. Montana's telecom businesses do not engage in discrimination, but could that be because we have rules against it? Surely Mr. Feiss is not suggesting that the internet of today is the same business environment that it was when it was created. That would be like comparing the Wild West of Montana's frontier years to the Missoula of today.

~Kim Morisaki




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