Montana Internet providers urge Tester, Daines to back net neutrality

Since its inception, the Internet has thrived on a single concept: a free and open platform available to all users. There is no censorship, no fast lanes or slow, and no tampering of download speeds based upon one’s chosen website.

Blackfoot Communication, based in Missoula, and Treasure State Internet in Bozeman and Helena, want to keep it that way. The two Internet providers are urging Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines to fight congressional efforts to regulate the Internet.

“It’s time for Congress to step in and end the uncertainty around net neutrality,” said Jason Williams, CEO at Blackfoot Communication. “The current uncertainty not only creates uncertainty for ISPs and technology companies, but it causes confusion for customers and stifles investment and innovation.”

Williams on Wednesday joined forces with Eric Fulton, the co-founder and CEO at Treasure State Internet, in asking Montana’s congressional delegation to seek a bipartisan solution that keeps the Internet free and open to all users.

The two providers agree that current policies protecting a free and open Internet are outdated and confusing. At times, they said, those policies are also subject to interpretation by the Federal Communications Commission.

But they and an increasing number of advocates, both at the national and local level, are banding together in asking Congress to block efforts to undo net neutrality. They’re asking Tester and Daines to work to permanently preserve an open Internet through legislation.

“As a company, we support modernizing regulations that will encourage companies to invest in broadband infrastructure in states like Montana,” said Fulton. “From a personal standpoint, I also believe that net neutrality supports entrepreneurship and more competition in society, which ultimately benefits consumers.”

The concept behind an open Internet suggests that the Internet and its vast resources should be easily accessed by all users. The idea is often referred to as net neutrality, which suggests a lack of censorship and includes equal standards of open use.

Regulating the Internet, opponents argue, could lead to censorship, favoring certain IP addresses and fast-loading websites, and possible site discrimination. Without net neutrality, cable and phone providers could carve the Internet into fast and slow lanes, block content or charge extra fees.

“Net neutrality has virtually ubiquitous support from the likes of consumers, students, service providers and many prominent companies,” said tech entrepreneur Alli DePuy. “There must be a way to find common ground and establish permanent rules for an open Internet that offers net neutrality protections.”

DePuy will join Williams and Fulton in Missoula next week for a panel discussion on their efforts to protect net neutrality. That discussion takes place at noon Aug. 15 at Blackfoot headquarters, located at 1221 N. Russell Street.