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Expect net neutrality to become a Colorado legislative issue next session

Author: Joey Bunch - December 19, 2017 - Updated: December 20, 2017

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The Colorado legislature will take up net neutrality in the session that begins in January, as some lawmakers try to shield the state from federal rules that give Internet service providers more say in the speed allowed for some websites over others.

That’s a big advantage to big companies that can afford to pay more. Web users also might have to pay more to access streaming content such as Netflix and Youtube, and some niche sites could be blocked entirely. Supporters of lifting net neutrality say competition and decency online should be no different than anywhere else.

Congress will likely be called on to address the issue before next year’s midterm elections, especially if concerns about a free-wheeling Internet or any price increases to access content stirs up their constituents.

The Federal Trade Commission will still be tasked with preventing abuses.

Denver Democratic state Reps. Leslie Herod and Chris Hansen used Facebook Live Monday to tell supporters they’re working on it.

“Open and fair access to the Internet is a bedrock of our modern economy and helps support small businesses, innovation and thousands of jobs in Colorado” Hansen told Colorado Politics via e-mail after the announcement. “We are working in a collaborative way to make sure that we maintain that protection for Colorado consumers and enable a vibrant future.”

Herod said, “This is about the college student taking courses online to try to get ahead, the entrepreneur bringing a new product to market reaching customers, the tele-health providers reaching folks in rural Colorado. Fundamentally, this is about freedom of information and it affects every single Coloradan. We can’t take this lightly.”

The issue is primarily a D.C. matter. The Federal Communications Commission decided 3-2 on a party-line vote last week to end net neutrality. The Democrats lost.

Moreover, The Hill newspaper noted, “FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan will also pre-empt states from passing their own net neutrality regulations.”

Closer to home, any Internet measures passed by the Democratic-led Colorado House would land in the Republican-led Senate. But the issue hasn’t broken cleanly along party lines. Several Colorado GOP leaders have voiced concerns.

In their video, Herod and Hansen weren’t yet sure how much authority the state could wield, but Republicans usually are all in to shake a fist at federal authority. But they’re even more inclined toward deregulation.

“We’ll be working on this furiously between now and when the session starts in January,” Hansen said.

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.