The state enacted a resolution this morning instructing the Maine Public Advocate to study the issue of net neutrality and what role (if any) the state can and should play in deciding, essentially, who owns, who pays for, and who has speedy access to the Internet.
A coalition of business owners, the Maine Civil Liberties Union, communications experts, and local politicians (such as Portland Senator Ethan Strimling and former Common Cause president Chellie Pingree) said the resolution underscores the state’s commitment to “full, fair and non-discriminatory access to the Internet.”
This is the first such state action in the country. Maine Senator Olympia Snowe has introduced federal legislation that addresses net neutrality.
The resolution is a slightly watered-down version of what Strimling originally proposed.
We’ll have a deeper look at both net neutrality and the national Real ID system, which the legislature addressed earlier this month, in next week’s issue of the Phoenix.
And here’s the official text of the resolution:
Amend the bill by striking out the title and substituting the following:
‘Resolve, Regarding Full, Fair and Nondiscriminatory Access to the Internet’
Amend the bill by striking out everything after the title and before the summary and inserting the following:
‘Preamble. Whereas, the Legislature finds that the development and continued enhancement of advanced communications technology in the State is vital to economic development; and
Whereas, full, fair and nondiscriminatory access to the Internet is critical to the ability of Maine citizens to participate in the information economy and is an important element of citizens’ access to information necessary to their roles as informed participants in our nation’s democracy; and
Whereas, regulation of the Internet is generally viewed as principally a matter within the jurisdiction of the Federal Government; and
Whereas, the interests of the State of Maine and its citizens must be vigorously protected; now, therefore, be it
Sec. 1 Monitoring state and federal activity relating to Internet access regulations. Resolved: That the Office of the Public Advocate shall take the following actions to monitor and review state and federal activity on issues relating to full, fair and nondiscriminatory access to the Internet. The Office of the Public Advocate shall:
1. Evaluate the actions of the Federal Communications Commission, the United States Congress and other appropriate agencies of government with respect to ensuring that citizens’ rights to full, fair and nondiscriminatory access to the Internet are not impeded;
2. Monitor the Federal Communication Commission’s inquiry into broadband industry practices, FCC-07-31, WC Docket No. 07-52;
3. Collect information on legislative and regulatory actions of other states on these issues;
4. Review the State’s telecommunications and technology policies, including the ConnectME Authority established pursuant to the Maine Revised Statutes, Title 35-A, section 9203, and evaluate the extent to which those policies are encouraging adequate investment in technology infrastructure to support a strong Internet system and continued expansion of broadband access in this State; and
5. Review the extent of the State’s authority to protect the rights of users of the Internet in the State to full, fair and nondiscriminatory access to the Internet; and be it further
Sec. 2 Report. Resolved: That, no later than February 1, 2008, the Office of the Public Advocate shall submit a report summarizing the results of its activities under section 1 to the Joint Standing Committee on Utilities and Energy.’
This amendment replaces the bill with a resolve. The amendment directs the Office of the Public Advocate to take several actions to monitor state and federal activity relating to full and fair access to the Internet. The amendment requires the Office of the Public Advocate to submit a report summarizing the results of its activities to the Joint Standing Committee on Utilities and Energy by February 1, 2008.