Colorado House debates net neutrality versus benefits of competition

Author: Joey Bunch - April 17, 2018 - Updated: April 26, 2018

Sammi LeMaster, second from left, and Katherine Fuchs, right, carry the top of an alarm clock display that reads “Net Neutrality” down 12th Street SW to their truck after a protest at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. The FCC voted to eliminate net-neutrality protections for the internet. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The Colorado House on Monday debated legislation to preserve net neutrality and ensure internet providers that receive tax dollars aren’t playing games with speed and prices.

House Bill 1312 passed on a voice vote and is likely to pass the recorded vote in House in the next few days. Then it will have a tougher playing field with the Senate majority, based on Monday’s debate.

Democrats promised before the session they would try to preserve net neutrality in states, after the Republican majority on the Federal Communications Commission in December overturned the requirement that internet service providers charge all websites equally and maintain optimum speeds at the lowest price.

The fear among net neutrality proponents is that internet service providers will raise rates for faster speeds to customers or to websites. The latter could squeeze out small businesses, and the former could require subscribers to pay more for streaming websites such as Netflix.

Rep, Leslie Herod, D-Denver, the bill’s sponsor, said, “As long as you’re receiving taxpayer funds you can’t play those games with the information taxpayers want.”

Republicans said the roll back of net neutrality resets the rules to 2014, when the Democratic majority of the FCC passed the rules. Before that, prices and internet speeds were not regulated by the government, and the free market worked just fine, they said.

The proposal also could backfire and wind up hurting the state’s ability to find companies willing to extend internet service into lightly populated rural areas, said Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale.

Rep. Stephen Humphrey, R-Severance, called the bill a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist in Colorado.

“This is an example of over-regulation of the broadband marketplace,” he said. “We just don’t need to do this in this state.”

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville of Castle Rock said that more regulations would only discourage the very companies the state is trying to encourage to expand into rural markets, and their buy-in is critical.

“Just like Al Gore didn’t invent the internet, we didn’t lay any of the fiber optic lines in Colorado,” he said, using the claim about the former past president.

“The fact of the matter is that it’s private companies that do that.”

Rep. Chris Hansen, D-Denver, another co-sponsor of the bill, said the bill is about protecting consumers.

“Our citizens across this state deserve the very best,” he said. “They deserve net neutrality.”

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.