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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Net neutrality protest draws two dozen to McMorris Rodgers’ office

Bodhi Bill Miller sings to a small group gathered Monday in Spokane to protest against positions taken by Federal Communications Commission  Chairman Ajit Pai and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., on the issue of net neutrality. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Lewis and Clark High School student Josie Stenzel joined a protest in front of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ Spokane office on Monday because, she says, she wants to keep the internet a platform of equal and free communication for everyone.

“I think that everyone should have equal access to information. If that isn’t promised to everyone then it’s not fair,” Stenzel said.

The protest was a response McMorris Rodgers’ opposition to previous federal rules regarding net neutrality that protesters argued ensure equal access to the internet. The repeal of those rules, say protesters, will allow internet service providers to block websites or apps, control the speed of certain websites and create a faster version of the internet for people who pay more, and a slower version for those who don’t.

Fuse Washington, an advocacy organization, hosted the protest, which drew about 25 people.

Opponents of the Obama-era net neutrality rules, including McMorris Rodgers, say that allowing private companies more freedom will advance broadband expansion and allow for more innovation of the internet.

In contrast to the federal repeal of those net neutrality rules, which took effect last week, Washington is the only state to enact net neutrality on the state level.

“Part of the reason that we’re still having the protest is there’s indications that the Federal Communications Commission or other agencies will challenge that law,” said Collin Jergens, community director for Fuse. “We’re not OK with just sitting back.”

The protest also was prompted by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s travels to Idaho and Washington. Pai supports the controversial overturn of Obama-era net neutrality rules.

Pai tweeted that he was in Idaho on Monday as part of his six-day tour of the Northwest states. The FCC did not immediately return phone calls from The Spokesman-Review.

McMorris Rodgers “supports open internet but thinks there’s a better way to achieve that,” said spokesman Jared Powell.

Powell said one of the problems with the net neutrality rules were that they “didn’t apply to Google and Facebook. It only applied to ISPs.”

He said McMorris Rodgers wants to find a bipartisan solution that addresses those concerns and doesn’t stifle small, rural internet service providers.

Democrat Lisa Brown, who is challenging McMorris Rodgers for Congress, supports the net neutrality rules that were overturned and has said she worries that repeal would give large corporations the power to charge excessive fees and interfere with the flow of data.