Lawmakers want state to take up ‘net neutrality’ fight

State Rep. Paul Thissen and Sen. Ron Latz, both Democrats, say the fight over net neutrality isn’t over. Brian Bakst | MPR News

A pair of Democratic legislators proposed Tuesday that Minnesota toughen state standards for internet service providers just as the federal government is giving them more flexibility in pricing and content control.

State Sen. Ron Latz of St. Louis Park and Rep. Paul Thissen of Minneapolis said lawmakers should step up in response to a Federal Communication Commission decision last week to do away with what’s called the net neutrality rule. That rule barred internet providers from setting prices based on the type of content or from blocking certain sites.

Thissen said the bill they will push next year session would leverage Minnesota’s regulatory power to guarantee equal access.

“The state of Minnesota and local governments are the ones who give internet service providers the easements, the pole attachment agreements, the rights of way to be able to do business here,” said Thissen, who is also a candidate for governor. “There is absolutely no reason that we should not make sure that when we grant those awards to those companies that we don’t ask something in return.”

The FCC has yet to issue its final order. It’s unclear whether that will bar states from imposing barriers to states that would craft additional regulations.

Internet service providers argue that a state-by-state system of regulations isn’t workable. They described the former rule as burdensome and said companies would still be legally required to protect consumers and be transparent in their service agreements.

Minnesota Cable Communications Association executive director Anna Boroff said the legislators’ plan “would create a Minnesota Internet island and disadvantage Minnesotans. If further regulations are deemed necessary, the proper place for legislative action is the United States Congress, not Minnesota.”

Latz said consumers need to look no further than cable pricing to be worried about how their internet costs could change under a dynamic pricing model.

“You have to pay for the one station you really want to get and all the 100 other stations you really never use,” he said. “Except this is going to be on steroids compared to what we see now.”

  • James Marusak

    sounds like they should take it a bit further. I’d like it if the cities/counties can leverage the utility rights of phone companies and cable companies that have ISP’s within their perview, saying that either net neutrality is maintained and every household and business within a community shall have access to broadband minimum speeds, as defined by the FCC in 2016, 15mb/sec up and down, within 2 years, or the city/county/municipal contract rights go up for re-bid. And if there are no bidders willing to do it and keep the costs affordable for the middle class, then the cities/counties/municipalities shall be automatically be given the right to create their own fiber internet access network, all the way to the house/apartment/business, unimpeded by any of the utilities.