Utah lawmaker considering legislation to protect net neutrality

Last year the FCC ended the Obama administration’s net neutrality policy, which mandated that internet service providers treat all content on the internet equally. The change allows ISP’s to slow down or even block access to content, or charge more for access to some types of content. 

In response, several states are considering legislation to preserve some sense of net neutrality. For example, Oregon passed a law prohibiting the awarding of state contracts to companies that don’t adhere to net neutrality principles. California is going one step further, preventing ISP’s from engaging in any activity that does not recognize net neutrality.

Rep. Bruce Cutler, R-Murray, worries about the effect abolishing net neutrality might have on customers in Utah, especially since the internet has become crucial to daily life. He’s exploring possible legislation for the 2018 session that would preserve net neutrality.

“I’ve used Comcast for years. I’ve been delighted with their service, but I’m concerned if they slow something I rely on down to a crawl,” he says. “I’m not sure what they’re going to do, so I’m investigating because I want to do what’s best for my constituents.”

Cutler says he’s torn because internet providers are private companies, and he doesn’t want to bring the heavy hand of government down on them. There’s a delicate balance between regulation and free enterprise he hopes to maintain.

“Maybe they’ll regulate themselves,” he says. “But that’s not always been the case.”

Cutler is careful to stress that he hasn’t decided to bring legislation yet. He plans to investigate what companies like Comcast and others are doing. For example, XMission has pledged to observe net neutrality. Comcast, on the other hand, mostly supports banning “paid prioritization” of content except in the case of specialized services. 

Cutler says state information technology officials tell him that the filtering of content has paid off for them, as they haven’t had to deal with so much garbage content.

“Some of the bad stuff is getting filtered out,” he says. “ISP’s are already filtering that stuff out, so that’s a good thing. But I don’t want them to filter out a service I’ve purchased.”

Cutler is proceeding carefully as he examines options for preserving net neutrality in Utah.

“This should not be a partisan issue. If I run any sort of legislation, it won’t be a partisan thing. Unfortunately, there’s been some partisanship made of it.”