Legislature(2017 - 2018)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)
04/17/2018 01:30 PM Senate LABOR & COMMERCE
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SB 160-BROADBAND INTERNET: NEUTRALITY/REGULATION 1:52:28 PM CHAIR COSTELLO reconvened the meeting and announced the consideration of SB 160. She noted that this was the second hearing and public testimony was closed. She asked the sponsor to comment. 1:53:08 PM SENATOR TOM BEGICH, Alaska State Legislature, Juneau, Alaska, sponsor of SB 160, reminded members that SB 160 would require internet service providers to abide by net neutrality principles in Alaska. That means no blocking lawful content, no paid prioritization or throttling unless the reasonable network management practices make an exception for distance learning and telemedicine. It would ensure continued access to a fair and open internet that treats all data equally and fairly. He noted the following slight changes since the committee heard the bill last: • Six governors have now signed executive orders requiring internet service providers (ISPs) with government contracts to abide by net neutrality. • 28 states have introduced net neutrality legislation • 22 state attorneys general have filed lawsuits against the FCC. Alaska is not yet one of those states but the governor and Senator Murkowski have both written op-ed pieces about net neutrality. SENATOR BEGICH warned that the deadline for Congress to reverse the FCC Title II net neutrality order was just a week away so it was even more imperative to pass this legislation. He emphasized that state legislatures must set the template for what Congress does on this matter. He noted who his office had invited to testify. 1:56:13 PM SENATOR MEYER asked if there was an ongoing federal lawsuit. SENATOR BEGICH replied Alaska is not engaged in a federal lawsuit, but 22 state attorneys general have filed lawsuits against the FCC on this particular action. Many of those states have also introduced legislation similar to SB 160 in an effort to set a common template for a proper net neutrality statute. SENATOR MEYER asked if resolution of the federal lawsuit would trump any state action. SENATOR BEGICH said it's difficult to say, but lawsuits can take years if not decades to resolve. This and similar legislation is intended to motivate Congress to act and resolve this matter quickly. 1:57:32 PM SENATOR STEVENS joined the committee. SENATOR MEYER said his concern was that if the laws aren't the same in all areas, providers will abandon some areas altogether. SENATOR BEGICH explained that this was model legislation that represents the voice of the states to ensure that internet companies cannot apply principles that block Alaskan citizens' access to the internet whether they are the wealthiest or poorest. He noted an earlier Senate floor debate regarding broadband access where several Senators emphasized the importance of equal access to all citizens. He opined that SB 160 would be a step towards encouraging equal access. SENATOR MEYER asked how many other states have passed similar legislation. SENATOR BEGICH deferred the question to his staff. 2:01:31 PM DR. SYDNEY LIENEMANN, Staff, Senator Tom Begich, Alaska State Legislature, Juneau, Alaska, advised that Washington State has passed similar legislation and governors in five other states have signed executive orders. Those states are Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Montana, and Vermont. 2:02:29 PM CHAIR COSTELLO asked the sponsor to comment on her observation that the phrase "in a manner sufficient for" on page 1, line 9, is a statement of philosophy, whereas the bill has more teeth starting on page 2, line 17. SENATOR BEGICH disagreed with the portrayal of the language as philosophical because the subsequent language is very specific and replicates the existing FCC rules regarding net neutrality that were repealed in December. He added that if the legislation does make a philosophical statement, it is that Alaska and other states have identified a way of protecting their citizens' free and open access to the internet. It's something that the federal government can use as a guide. He related his early encounters with the internet which supports the importance of a free and open internet. CHAIR COSTELLO asked if the bill would be unnecessary if the federal government took action. SENATOR BEGICH confirmed that if the federal government were to pass legislation that replicated this model language, the bill would be unnecessary. But until the federal government takes that action, passing SB 160 will make it possible for the state to defend its citizens' right to a free and open internet. 2:06:55 PM CHAIR COSTELLO noted the 2/12/2018 letter of opposition from AT&T in the packet. 2:07:26 PM At ease 2:07:30 PM CHAIR COSTELLO reconvened the meeting. 2:08:18 PM MIKE ROBINSON, Head of Systems, UAA; Chair of Intellectual Freedom Committee, Alaska Library Association, Anchorage, Alaska, said he works in technology at the university library and several years ago he was a representative on Governor Parnell's Broadband Task Force so he is familiar with broadband issues in Alaska. He stated that libraries support network neutrality for two reasons: equitable access and intellectual freedom. He pointed out that libraries are often the gateway for internet access in communities and in some cases they are the only gateway. In that role they serve as an aggregated end user for people trying to get on the internet. Libraries are also a portal for access to online information such as e-books, journal content, and other things. In that sense, they are a content provider or small business. He emphasized the importance of ensuring that library users get to the information they need without hinderance and ensuring that libraries do not have to compete with large content companies whose use may be prioritized by some internet companies. MR. ROBINSON noted that when Commissioner Pai revoked net neutrality for the FCC, he argued that market competition would solve the problems of any broadband providers that attempt to violate net neutrality. However, that is not a solution for Alaska because many Alaskan communities don't have any broadband competition. Libraries also support network neutrality because broadband companies should not be in a position to decide what content to promote or provide access to. That decision should be left to individual users. In this democracy it's critical that broadband companies remain neutral gateways rather than gatekeepers, he said. MR. ROBINSON concluded his comments noting that AT&T's comments on the bill basically said they had never violated net neutrality and should be trusted to continue that practice. Acknowledging that it was a separate issue, he said Facebook would probably have made the same argument several years ago. He urged the committee to support SB 160. 2:11:37 PM JENNIE STEWART, Founder, Custom Everything, Inc. Anchorage, Alaska, stated that she started her web-based business in 2002 and net neutrality allowed her business to compete on a national and international scale. Her current competitors are businesses like Amazon and Walgreens and without net neutrality a large business could pay to promote their content and thereby throttle access to her website. This would result in a vast change to her business. "If we had just a minor decrease in speed, it would bump us down in terms of the search engine results." She said it's likely her business would no longer be on the first page and she would be out of business in a very short time. Alaska can compete on a national scale because network neutrality ensures a level playing field. Under the "pay to play" scheme, that will change. CHAIR COSTELLO noted that public testimony was closed and looked to the will of the committee. 2:14:17 PM SENATOR GARDNER said she was eager to see this important piece of legislation move along. 2:14:30 PM SENATOR MEYER moved to report SB 160, version A, from committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal note(s). 2:14:46 PM CHAIR COSTELLO found no objection and SB 160 moved from the Senate Labor and Commerce Standing Committee.