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A bill that would provide net neutrality for Oklahoma is being drafted by southside Rep. Mickey Dollens in preparation for the next session of the Oklahoma Legislature.

This comes on the heels of a controversial, partisan vote of the Federal Communications Commission in December that went into effect Monday.

At the same time, Congress struggles to pass a net neutrality law that would pre-empt the FCC action. A bill has passed the Senate but is stuck in the House of Representatives.

In December, the vote of just five people removed protections that affect millions of Americans.

Ajit Pai, the Trump-appointed Chair of the FCC, and the four Republican-appointed commissioners out of the eight total voted to remove the protections.

Pai’s appointment by Trump tilted the balance of voting on the commission toward the four Republican members who were uniformly in favor of removing the rules.

In December, Free Press reported the responses in Oklahoma City’s tech community the day the ruling was handed down.

Local efforts

Dollens, HD 93, told Free Press Wednesday that the bill he is working on could provide a measure of net neutrality for Oklahoma. He is finding that his constituents support the idea.

“Especially from younger people, but surprisingly from older people, too. They are very much in favor of net neutrality and an equal and open internet,” said Dollens.

Dollens - Capitol Hill Civic Group - 3
Rep. Mickey Dollens speaks to the Capitol Hill Civic Group. BRETTDICKERSON/OKCFreePress

Previous net neutrality rules treated Internet services as a utility and required an ISP to distribute Internet service equally and fairly to everyone regardless of their location and how much they pay.

“Net neutrality is incredibly important for tech startups, small businesses and entrepreneurs,” said Dollens. “It ensures an equal and open internet so that different sites can’t be slowed down or blocked based on the ISP (internet service provider).”

“Right now you have a monopoly of very few internet service providers we can even choose from in Oklahoma.”

Dollens said a few states have taken up the idea of passing their own net neutrality rules which will be models he considers when drafting his own bill.

Washington and Oregon have passed their own laws that would enforce net neutrality. New York and California are working on their own bills at present.

But many believe the Federal government under the Trump administration will challenge those states in court.

Local reaction

“Preservation of net neutrality is really important, it properly treats the internet as infrastructure, just like our telephone lines, roads etc,” Jessie Harlin told Free Press Thursday.

He is a coder who develops apps in Oklahoma City for clients all over the U.S. and world.

Jesse Harlin, developer and Techlahoma leader
Jesse Harlin (file photo) BRETTDICKERSON/OKCFreePress

Harlin was encouraged that Dollens was working on a bill for Oklahoma.

“Without true net neutrality, ISPs have the power to ‘control’ internet traffic that might not be in the best interests of citizens.”

He gave an example: “Imagine I am here making these web apps, but the very platform I am putting my material on can be throttled at will by some ISP if they want.”

Harlin said net neutrality is in the best interest of tech workers, many of whom work remotely for clients around the world.

Skeptical

Tommy Yi, StarSpace 46 founder, net neutrality
Tommy Yi, founder of StarSpace46, a co-working space populated mostly by tech startups. (file) BRETTDICKERSON/OKCFreePress

Tommy Yi, founder of StarSpace46, a co-working space (and in-kind sponsor of Free Press) was skeptical of the move in December when the FCC took the controversial vote.

“I know there’s been a lot of false information that removing net neutrality would increase competition. But the reality is that because of service provider … agreements …, they have a monopoly in their region,” said Yi.

Because of monopolization of the Internet, Yi anticipated the ISPs would start creating “tollways.”

“They have sole discretion of being able to pick and choose who’s able to go on which lane and at what price,” Yi said.

Jonathan Yarbor, Nodecraft, net neutrality
Jonathan Yarbor is the co-founder of Nodecraft, an OkC tech startup. (file) BRETTDICKERSON/OKCFreePress

In December we talked with Jonathan Yarbor who runs his game hosting website Nodecraft from an office in StarSpace46 with the co-founder James Ross who lives in England.

He thought ISPs could start charging extra for traffic peaks when planers are interacting on their platform which would have a radical effect on the finances of the fledgling company.


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