The US Congress is considering reinstating net neutrality regulations from 2015. ‘This bureaucratic red tape will end the internet as we know it and turn it into a government-run public utility,’ Bethany Marcum expressed her view for alaskalandmine.com. She worked in telecom for a decade, and is now Executive Director of Alaska Policy Forum. By redefining net neutrality, the progress Alaska has made when it comes to broadband technology will come to an abrupt stop, she writes.
Alaska has seen significant technological improvements over the years. Thanks to expanded broadband, thousands of Alaskans can be connected to anyone, anywhere. As access to broadband continues to grow, it is paving the way to new opportunities. From distance learning to telemedicine, and anything in between, the horizon has never been brighter for Alaskans to have it all.
Soon 5G data will make things even faster, opening new markets and new pathways to innovation. Anchorage will become one of the first cities worldwide to roll out a 5G data network. Telecom companies GCI and Ericsson announced earlier this year they would launch a USD 30 million project that will increase internet speeds and connectivity to the internet citywide.
Some parts of the state still lack essential broadband access. Today, 20 percent of Alaskans do not have access to broadband. Among school districts, Alaska ranks dead last in the country in meeting the minimum internet speed requirements, putting their children at a learning disadvantage. In rural areas of the state, the digital divide is even more glaring.
According to Marcum, the return of the net neutrality regulation known from the Obama-era will cause a stagnation in the infrastructure building, job creation and the overall economic growth. During the net neutrality regulation, the country lost hundreds of thousands of jobs and tens of billions of dollars in investment.
Reopening the net neutrality debate simply turns the internet into a political tool, she said. Consumer protections are important. Every Alaskan should have access to an internet that is fair and open. But the internet is working fine as it is. According to Marcum, allowing the government to interfere with the internet would be catastrophic for Alaskans.
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