Weekly Feature

2018-01-11 / Editorials

Loss of net neutrality will hurt Erie County

Erie County Executive

Recently, the Federal Communications Commission issued a ruling that would strip away net neutrality, a move that would forever change the way we access information on the internet and would force consumers to pay more for service. Readers may wonder what net neutrality is and why it matters, or how its loss will affect them. It’s important that the public fully understand what this means, as your future will be impacted.

Currently, when you purchase service from an internet provider, you are free to access any content you wish. With the repeal of net neutrality, that no longer has to be the case and providers would be allowed to offer differing levels of access on a sliding-fee scale. Instead of paying a flat fee for internet, Americans would select from a bundle of packages, similar to cable television, which would dictate what information you could access. The restrictions could go further, however, as providers are investing in media technology and will now have the power to bolster their own media platforms and websites while stifling or muting others. This means that providers would be legally allowed to sell you only the “information” they wanted you to see or that you could afford.

It is important to remember that the internet was not created by any one person or company working on their own. It was a collaborative effort initiated by the government. So why should we allow providers to wield this much power over consumers?

As a leader in county government, I have been working with Legislator Patrick Burke on this issue for three years and have made increasing internet speed, affordability and access a priority for Erie County. We formed the Erie County Broadband Committee to complete an analysis of our region’s internet and communications assets. The results confirmed what we suspected: our internet quality is already not good enough.

Many areas in Erie County — notably the inner city of Buffalo and rural areas — lack access to reliable high-speed broadband service. Robust, reliable and expansive internet service is critical to improving economic development, public safety, education and more.

Treating information as a commodity puts a price point on what students can accomplish in the classroom, costs crucial moments in public safety emergencies, and lessens the likelihood of businesses locating or growing here in Erie County.

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