Net neutrality protest

Democratic congressional candidate Patrick Nelson, center, and others protest outside U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik's Glens Falls district office on Dec. 15, the day after the Federal Communications Commission decided to dismantle net neutrality rules. This photo was posted on Nelson's Facebook page. 

Net neutrality has become a campaign issue in New York’s 21st Congressional District following the Federal Communications Commission’s Dec. 14 vote to repeal Obama-era regulations on the internet.

Democratic congressional candidate Patrick Nelson has written a one-page resolution to disapprove the repeal of net neutrality and has requested U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, introduce it to Congress — a move some other candidates described as a campaign stunt.

Stefanik said she will decline Nelson’s request but will try to restore net neutrality through Congress instead of the FCC.

The FCC voted 3-2 to rescind its rules that prohibit changing the speed or blocking specific websites, applications and other forms of internet content, and also prohibit creating internet “fast lanes” to allow higher speeds for those who pay a higher price.

A Dec. 12 poll conducted by the University of Maryland revealed 83 percent of registered voters opposed the repeal. Previous polls, including one conducted by Morning Consult and Politico in November and one performed by Mozilla and Ipsos in the summer of 2017, revealed 52 percent of registered voters and 76 percent of Americans support net neutrality, respectively.

“The vast majority of our internet that we know, there has been some form of net neutrality regulation on traffic,” Nelson said. “The whole idea that the status quo ante is without these regulations is a misdirection being done by political PR professionals like Congresswoman Stefanik, trying to put a nice face on corporate America trying to extract more of our hard-earned money.”

Essentially, Nelson is asking the congresswoman to ask Congress to repeal the repeal through the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress a 60-day window to reject any regulation from executive agencies. Once the FCC’s ruling is officially reported to Congress, it kicks off the 60-day window, after which the regulation is implemented. Nelson said that window may close sometime in May.

Stefanik, who sits on the Rural Broadband Caucus, said she supported net neutrality leading up to the FCC’s vote but did not oppose the vote, believing the regulation of broadband is better handled by Congress making new laws than an agency making rules.

“Congresswoman Stefanik has been very clear and consistent that what needs to happen now is for the Committees of Jurisdiction to hold hearings with internet service providers and web companies to begin crafting legislation that codifies the principles of net neutrality into law,” Stefanik campaign spokesperson Lenny Alcivar wrote in an email. “This is an important issue for families across the North Country, and deserves to be debated in an open, transparent process. Mr. Nelson’s proposal would simply punt Congress’ legislative role and put the issue back in the federal rule-making process.”

Nelson said he took House Joint Resolution 38, a resolution that Stefanik voted for that disapproved a rule blocking coal companies from dumping debris into streams, and changed the language to disapprove the net neutrality repeal.

His petition demanding Congress overturn the FCC’s decision had received 564 signatures by Dec. 28, including around 100 from the 21st District, according to Nelson. He has asked supporters to sign the petition and call Stefanik’s office to ask her to introduce the Congressional Review Act resolution.

Congressman Mike Doyle, a Democrat from Pennsylvania’s 14th District, has pledged to introduce his own CRA as soon as the FCC’s legislation is published.

Nelson’s resolution also would block the FCC from passing anything “substantially similar” to the net neutrality repeal in the future.

Stefanik faces at least eight Democratic opponents and one Republican in her bid for re-election this November.

“The effects of this legislation are yet to be known,” Republican candidate Russ Finley wrote in an email to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, saying Democrats are jumping straight to fear-mongering. “Mr. Nelson’s actions are typical of his ‘Bernie says anything done by the Republicans will kill millions’ platform. Frankly, this petition is nothing more than a campaign stunt, and a way to data mine an email list for future solicitation. It is definitely not newsworthy!”

“I applaud the aim of my colleague’s bill but really would like to know what action the incumbent will take besides press releases and social media posts,” Democratic candidate Emily Martz wrote in an email. “The president and leader of her party is pushing this ruling. Does she have the guts to actively work on Capitol Hill for what is right for the people?”

“Without net neutrality, your internet service provider will slow streaming, block websites, and charge you more to reach certain websites,” Sam Parker, a representative of Democratic candidate Don Boyajian’s campaign, wrote in an email. “The ending of net neutrality is an attack on the consumers and small businesses in upstate New York that depend on a free and open internet. The recent decision by the FCC is corrupt corporate politics at its worst. We need a change in leadership in the North Country.”

“While I support these efforts to overturn the repeal of net neutrality, calling on Elise Stefanik to take a stand against her party is a like asking a fish to climb a tree,” Democratic candidate Tedra Cobb wrote in an email. “We will protect internet freedom when we elect a congresswoman who truly understands NY-21 and who will fight the special interests that harm her constituents. Equal access to the Internet, especially for our underserved rural communities, is vital for education, for our economy, and for our democracy.”

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