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Maura Healey joins fight to protect net neutrality

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey joined 22 other state attorneys general Tuesday in a multi-state lawsuit to review the repeal of net neutrality protections, citing the repeal as being “illegal,” and bad for people and businesses.

Those who signed the petition hope the court determines the Federal Communications Commission’s order to end net neutrality to be “arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion,” according to a press release from Healey’s office.

The Federal Communications Commission finalized the order to repeal net neutrality on Jan. 4, reflecting the December vote to end the protections, according to the release.

Mohamad Ali, the president and CEO of Carbonite, an online backup service, wrote in an email to The Daily Free Press that he thinks net neutrality allows small businesses to grow without stifling them with internet fees.

“It creates a level playing field that gives entrepreneurs with fresh ideas a fair chance to find success and grow—even in the face of larger competitors who have more financial resources,” Ali wrote.

Ali wrote he supports Healey’s resolve to enter the lawsuit.

“Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s decision to join the suit against the FCC ruling shows that the battle to preserve net neutrality is very much alive,” he wrote. “Along with AG Maura Healey, businesses, politicians, industry leaders and consumers alike are stepping up to show their support for a free and open Internet.”

Evan Greer, the campaign director for Fight for the Future, a digital rights nonprofit advocacy group, wrote in an email to The Daily Free Press that the FCC’s decision to repeal net neutrality protections is not only a likely violation of the law, but also one that disproportionately targets certain demographics.

“Net neutrality is the First Amendment of the Internet,” Greer wrote. “It’s what makes sure all of us have a voice, not just those who can afford to pay…It’s the basic technological principle that has made the web into such a vibrant platform for free expression, creativity, and innovation.”

Daniel Lyons, an associate professor at the Boston College Law School, said he recognizes the concern surrounding the FCC’s decision given the potential ramifications if internet providers exercise a bias against certain content.

“[Net neutrality proponents] worry that internet service providers occupy a unique space in the internet ecosystem,” Lyons said. “They control the pipe that connects consumers to the internet, and so there’s a concern that as long as you control that strategic point in the communications network…it gives you the power potentially to shape which information gets communicated and how.”

Lyons said he supports the recent FCC decision as it removes the restraints on prioritization of internet traffic that allows for efficient use of the internet.

“The concern among those of us who thought the FCC made a wrong turn three years ago was the idea that by mandating a one-size-fits-all approach to broadband network management that you’re potentially harming innovation and more efficient network management tools,” Lyons said.

Barton Carter, a professor of communication and law at Boston University, said the legal theory behind the FCC’s arguments might not hold up in court.

The problem is, the lawsuits will have nothing to do with whether net neutrality is good or bad,” Carter said. “It will revolve around the FCC’s right to issue the newest set of regulations.”

Several Boston residents said the FCC’s ruling could impact their ability to use the internet freely.

Aishwarya Chheda, 23, of Roxbury, said she believes the internet should be accessible to everyone.

“That’s our source where we get all kinds of information where people can speak without being charged or without facing any backlash,” Chheda said. “If that’s just reserved for a few sites or just for a few people, that is something that goes against freedom, and goes against our rights.”

Elaine King, 59, of Fenway, said the FCC decision could allow businesses to exercise a bias of their own.

“My understanding is that it leaves the freedom up to the corporations to decide whether they would take advantage of the whole thing,” King said. “For the most part, the core thing of it is, and that could create biases in certain groups, maybe political or religious leanings.”

Shalian Aponte, 39, of Brighton, said paying excessive fees for the internet should not be sanctioned.

“I support people having equal access and not having to pay for things that are unnecessary to pay for,” Aponte said. “It affects the bottom line for people’s budgets.”


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