Net Neutrality digitally divides Maine lawmakers

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Federal regulators’ plan to loosen restrictions on your internet provider creates a digital divide between Maine’s lawmakers.

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) worries a Federal Communications Commission plan to get rid of a regulation on those who own the cables that connect you to the internet could hurt Mainers.

“The rule they’re about to embark upon is disastrous,” he said.

Rolling back the 2015 regulation known as Net Neutrality would free providers from the obligation to stream all data on the web at the same speed. King worries that will give big companies willing to pay a premium an advantage over small companies. “The money to be made here is enormous,” he said.

King said he sees the potential for a new era of digital railroad barons – with shady deals at customers’ expense. “I think we’re going to see those kinds of things happen almost immediately.”

Not everyone on Capitol Hill shares King’s view. Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-Maine) said a rule-rollback will allow cable companies to take advantage of new opportunities, not customers. “I don’t think a big, heavy-handed regulatory body should get involved in regulating the internet,” he said, “keep it free, keep it open.”

Poliquin said it’s not in cable giants’ interest to provide a worse online experience to anyone. He said the internet didn’t have fairness issues before regulators formalized the current rule in 2015 – and won’t when it’s gone either.

“A lot of the doomsday scenarios that were forecast several years ago have never come to be,” he said.

Congress could step-in and overrule the FCC’s plan, but within the Republican majority there’s little momentum to do so.

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