WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), ranking member of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, spoke from the floor of the Senate Wednesday prior to Senate votes to maintain net neutrality protections contained in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) 2015 Open Internet Order. Full video of his remarks can be downloaded here or viewed here. Excerpts follow.
“Internet Service Providers are basically utility companies that provide internet service to our constituents, to our businesses and to America. Without the protection of net neutrality, these utilities would have the ability to block or throttle content. This is a debate of whether we are on the side of the big utility-type companies or the individuals and small businesses of America to guarantee them equal access to this critical service … Almost half of consumers have no choice of who could provide their internet service. Competition does not exist, so this is not a matter of competition but preventing discrimination.
“Fifty six percent of small business owners oppose the FCC repeal of net neutrality. Seventy percent of small business owners feel that they are at a disadvantage compared to larger businesses due to their size and market power. The internet gives them capacity to try to equalize that disadvantage.
“ISPs should not have the last word in what any American can see on the internet. Access to the information vital for our democracy and our economy to function shouldn’t be based on ability to pay. Congress has a chance to put consumers and small businesses first and prevent the FCC from bowing to corporate interests.
Senator Cardin urged colleagues in the House to join the Senate in supporting a free and open internet, unmarred by the blocking or throttling of content: “This will be one of the most important votes we cast.”
In 2014, Senator Cardin was among the first senators calling on the FCC to reclassify broadband internet access as a public utility, similar to the treatment of telecommunications service.