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p>At the state capitol in Annapolis yesterday, FreedomWorks staff and a FreedomWorks Congressional Action Team leader named Bryan Shuy lobbied the House of Delegates to stop HB 1069 in its tracks. This bill, taken up by the House Economic Matters Committee, would require that broadband companies report to the state about who their customers are, and that companies not be allowed to prioritize internet content. This bad idea, so-called “net neutrality,” is another attempt by big-government advocates to control the broadband internet market in the guise of being pro-consumer. Net neutrality would actually lead to more government meddling in a market that is competitive and would stifle the innovation which will bring us the future internet.
FreedomWorks attended the committee hearing and delivered policy papers and opinion pieces about net neutrality. We also visited over 20 legislative offices of committee members and told their staff that we were adamantly opposed to HB 1069.
Before the committee hearing FreedomWorks met with delegate Jeannie Haddaway who said that she was opposed to this bill. When asked about her thoughts, she gave it the “thumbs down” sign. We told the delegate that if she led the fight against net neutrality in Maryland, FreedomWorks members would support her efforts. She replied that she had already forwarded the anti-net neutrality materials around to her colleagues in the committee before the hearing.
During the testimony in the committee hearing room CAT leader Bryan Shuy made his case against net neutrality as a constituent of bill’s author. Bryan told the committee that prioritizing internet content makes sense when you consider that downloading songs and videos take up a lot of bandwidth that could be needed by someone with an online heart monitor. He discussed the need to keep the broadband market open, competitive and innovative, instead of granting state bureaucrats the power to meddle and micro-manage this ever-changing market. [You can listen to the audio here (mp3, 2.5 MB)]
Delegate Emmett Burns seemed to understand the issue, pointing out that the internet pipes are limited and that content is differently sized. Based on this he seemed to understand that internet content should be differentially priced.
Director of Federal and State Campaigns Brendan Steinhauser also testified, telling legislators that the government should know its role when it comes to regulating the internet. “The message is very simple, keep your hands off the internet,” he told the committee. Brendan discussed the merits of the free market, differential pricing of content and the property rights issues inherent in this bill. [You can listen to his comments here (mp3, 2.5 MB)]
Other groups opposed to the net neutrality bill included the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Free State Project. Ebay, Free Press and the University of Maryland testified in favor of granting the state the power to neuter the net. FreedomWorks and its allies educated the committee about the effects of the proposal, and are confident that lawmakers will think twice before they sign on to the bill. We will need continued support of our volunteers to continue to speak out against this bad public policy wherever it rears its ugly head.