Maine Wire: Open markets for internet providers can bridge the digital divide

By Nick Murray

Many would agree that consistent access to the internet is an important part of life in 2018. It is crucial to participate and thrive in the global economy. We should do all we can to empower broader access to this “great equalizer,” especially because there are those who aim to slow the march of progress.

This summer, agency officials from several states, as well as companies like Alphabet (owner of Google), Facebook, and Amazon, filed suit against the FCC demanding reinstatement of the regulations known as “net neutrality.”

“Net neutrality” is not merely how its supporters explain it: the regulation of large internet service providers (ISPs) to treat all types of data traveling through their lines as equal and prohibit paid “fast lanes” for internet access. Its effects are more far-reaching than that. It means treating the transmission of internet as a public utility under Title II of the Federal Communications Act of 1934. Before, and since the FCC repealed the Obama-era rules, ISPs are classified under Title I, which regards the internet an “information service” rather than a utility. Because of this action, companies in that space are subject to a looser regulatory structure.