Sometimes, a few words are all you need to make sense of a complicated public policy debate.

That’s what we got from former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, in reaction to his Republican successor’s proposal to tear apart the net neutrality rules that Wheeler, a Democrat, pushed through in 2015.

“If you like your cable company you’ll love what this does for the internet,” he told The Washington Post. “Because it gives internet service providers the same kind of control over content and price as cable operators have today.”

The 2015 rules prohibit internet service providers from analyzing or manipulating data as it travels between your computer and whatever entity you are communicating with. This open internet concept has made it possible for tiny startup companies to compete against industry giants in a way never before possible, giving consumers more choices than ever. Aside from commercial use, the internet has also leveled the playing field of political speech, allowing ordinary people to reach vast audiences.


But even though the internet is vast, a small number of companies control a large part of the traffic, and telecom giants like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon have been buying some of the biggest content creators that use their systems.

Without the rules, an internet service provider could decide to make some websites load faster than others, giving content companies they own a competitive edge. Or they could increase prices for premium content like high-definition video. Without any real competition, the only way to protect consumers is regulation.

Later this month, in its last meeting of the year, the FCC will be voting on a plan to replace the existing rules with a “light touch” regulatory approach, which would give industry giants the ability to shut down competition and raise the price of free speech.

Most members of Maine’s congressional delegation have weighed in against changing the rules.


Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King issued a statement calling the change “a monumentally bad decision for the country.” Through her spokeswoman, Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said, “Internet providers must not manage their system in an anti-competitive way that limits consumers’ choices.”

In a series of tweets, 1st District Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree said, “Net neutrality is not a partisan issue. It’s an issue of fair & equal access to information for everyone online. This is plain wrong.”

2nd District U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin has spoken neither for nor against the changes, although last year he voted for a bill that would have repealed the rules.

The internet has become as much a part of everyday life as electric power and phone service. It’s too important in too many ways to be left the bottom-line decision makers in a handful of telecommunications giants.

It can be frustrating and inconvenient to watch your cable bill climb arbitrarily while you can’t access the movie channels or sporting events you want, but it’s a service that most people could live without. Giving the same kind of power to companies that have so much control over commerce in our nation would be foolish. The FCC should not go down this road.

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