Legislature(2017 - 2018)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)
02/08/2018 01:30 PM LABOR & COMMERCE
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SJR 12-CONGRESS REVERSE FCC ON NET NEUTRALITY 3:11:53 PM CHAIR COSTELLO reconvened the meeting and announced the consideration of SJR 12. 3:12:06 PM SENATOR BILL WIELECHOWSKI, Alaska State Legislature, Juneau, Alaska, sponsor of SJR 12, introduced the legislation speaking to the following sponsor statement: In December 2017, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) adopted an order to reverse regulations that had established a federal broadband policy of net neutrality and to preempt states from imposing regulations on internet service providers. Net neutrality protects an individual's ability to access and transmit information on the internet, requiring internet service providers (ISPs) to treat all websites equally, regardless of their content or business relationships. Without net neutrality ISPs can lawfully charge customers higher rates to access certain websites, download music, and watch videos, and the ISPs would be able to slow down or block access to sites altogether. The FCCs decision was extremely unpopular with the American public and a survey conducted by the University of Maryland found that 83 percent of Americans opposed repealing net neutrality. Furthermore, the FCCs public commenting process was flawed. Of the more than 22 million comments that were received, 2 Million were linked to stolen identities and nearly 500,000 were generated from Russian email address. Alaska's isolation from the lower 48 means our citizens rely heavily on the internet to connect to one another, keep in touch with family, work, and for educational purposes. Many Alaskan communities already struggle to obtain stable, affordable internet access. Alaskans' First Amendment rights of free speech, free press, and free association are also at risk without a net neutral environment enabling the free flow of thoughts, ideas, and concerns over the internet. The Congressional Review Act, which grants Congress authority to nullify any regulatory rules issued by federal agencies with a simple majority vote, is the best chance at reversing the FCCs decision on net neutrality and must be submitted within 60 legislative days of finalization of the agency's action. Upon approval, this resolution would urge the United States Congress to exercise its authority under the Congressional Review Act to overturn the Federal Communication Commission's regulatory decision to end net neutrality protections. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI emphasized that this repeal is a grave threat to free speech. Verizon once blocked text messages from a prochoice advocacy group deeming them to be too controversial. Religious groups also oppose the repeal. Pat Roberts' Christian Coalition website states, "If net neutrality dies, the internet as we know it today will cease to exist." He said the arguments for repealing net neutrality don't have much merit. Some say that ISPs won't slow speeds, but Comcast cut Netflix speeds drastically until Netflix agreed to pay more. Some say competition will prevent providers from abusing the system, but half of all U.S. households have no choice of access. Alaska is in a similar situation with limited and expensive options. Some say this will hurt investment, but capital investment increased after the original net neutrality regulations passed. Some say there will be transparency with the Federal Trade Commission overseeing the internet, but all the FTC will look for is whether the companies say how they are blocking or slowing or censoring. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI said the public comment on the reversal of net neutrality was flawed. Of the 21 million comments that were received, up to 2 million were linked to stolen identities, nearly 500,000 were likely generated from Russian email addresses, 94 percent were submitted multiple times, 57 percent came from duplicate or temporary addresses, and 75,000 identical or similar comments were posted at the same second on nine occasions. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI said the Congressional Review Act grants Congress the authority to overturn this order with a simple majority vote. Just one more vote is needed in the U.S. Senate. 3:17:51 PM CHAIR COSTELLO asked the source of the list of technology organizations on page 3, lines 6-9, that oppose the end of net neutrality protections. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI deferred to his staff. 3:18:34 PM NATE GRAHAM, Staff, Senator Bill Wielechowski, Alaska State Legislature, Juneau, Alaska, said it came from an article in Business Insider. A copy is in the supporting documents. SENATOR MICCICHE commented that the case is strong and convincing without some of the references such as the University of Maryland poll. The issue is about whether you believe the internet is a utility and his personal belief is that it is a utility. 3:20:21 PM SENATOR STEVENS said it seems that Alaska would be more impacted than other states. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI agreed; his understanding is that a higher percentage of Alaskans use the internet for work and entertainment than other states, particularly in rural areas. It's used for social media, access to news, for work, and telemedicine. SENATOR STEVENS commented that telemedicine great future could be damaged by rolling back net neutrality. SENATOR GARDNER observed that Alaska is different because there is just one provider in many areas. She noted that one of her staff found his name on three comments regarding closing down net neutrality even though he hadn't submitted any comment. He agreed with two of the comments and disagreed with one. CHAIR COSTELLO said it's fitting that the only committee with a Facebook page should move this legislation along. 3:22:16 PM SENATOR MEYER moved to report SJR 12 from committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal note(s). 3:22:27 PM CHAIR COSTELLO found no one who wished to comment on SJR 12 and closed public testimony. 3:22:52 PM SENATOR MEYER restated the motion to report SJR 12 from committee with individual recommendations and attached zero fiscal note(s). 3:23:06 PM CHAIR COSTELLO announced that without objection, SJR 12 moves from the Senate Labor and Commerce Standing Committee.