Legislature(2017 - 2018)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

04/17/2018 01:30 PM Senate LABOR & COMMERCE

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved CSHB 346(L&C) Out of Committee
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled: TELECONFERENCED
Moved SB 160 Out of Committee
        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                                                               
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                                                               
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                                                               
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.                                                                                   

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