Independent online publishers oppose net neutrality repeal plan

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Home pages of LION sites.

An organization representing independent online publishers, including Delaware Business Now, is strongly opposed to plans by the Federal Communications Commission Chairman to repeal net neutrality rules that came during the Obama administration.

The plan is slated to come up for avote by the FCC.

“Giving a clear go-ahead for a tilted playing field would be the result if the Federal Communications Commission tosses out Net Neutrality,” saidDylan Smith, LION’s chairman and the publisher ofTucsonSentinel.com, an independent outlet in the Arizona city.

Deep concern from indie publishers

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LION (Local Independent Online News Publishers) is a national nonprofit organization with more than 180 members operating locally focused news sites in 42 states. The group issued a statement on Monday expressing deep concern about the FCC’s proposal to scrap Net Neutrality rules.

Delaware Business Now is a long-time member of LION. DBN operates a website and five-day-a-week statewide business newsletter.

Supporters of repeal, which include Comcast and Verizon, claim that the FCC should only have a light regulatory touch regarding Internet speeds. Others disagree, pointing to mega-media outlets getting or offering “fast lanes” that will squeeze out smaller fry. The chairman of the FCC accused critics of overstating their fears of the repeal.

“Access to information and local journalism that holds government and other powerful institutions accountable is essential to a functioning democracy, economic well-being, and human rights,” said LION Executive DirectorMatt DeRienzo. “These pillars are already under severe strain from the dominance of a handful of large tech platforms, and the rapid consolidation of the newspaper and broadcasting industry under the control of a few enormous corporate chains.”

Local independent online news sites are springing up all over the country to fill gaps in local journalism, but they rely on an Internet based on a level playing field for all publishers and readers, regardless of size or resources, LION noted.

Squeezing out smaller publishers

According to LION, “if net neutrality goes away, big Internet and wireless providers will be able to charge individual publishers for levels of speed and access, a scenario in which a handful of big companies with deep pockets could squeeze out the kind of small, independent news publishers who are part of LION. This would severely limit citizens’ access to information and could be devastating to local news, which big publishers have whittled to the barest of bones.”

“I am especially concerned for Delaware, a state with mega media outlets and mega broadband providers,” said Doug Rainey, chief content officer for Delaware Business Now. “Delaware has among the nation’s fastest broadband speeds, but that designation will mean little if carriers and mega media partners move to the front of the line.”

“With studies showing that many readers will abandon slow-loading pages, that means news that isn’t backed by the deepest of pockets would be far less likely to reach the eyes and ears of those who would be purposefully led toward more lowest-common-denominator clickbait,” LION stated.

Former ISP owner sees dangers

“As a former ISP owner and telecom executive, I concur with the need to have the FCC prevent higher, faster, better service being provided solely to online media that pays huge extra tolls to telecom companies,” saidJoe Hyde, the publisher ofSan Angelo LIVE!in Texas and a member of LION Publishers. “The companies that run the Internet backbone and provide direct customer connections have the ability on the tech end to throttle our small sites — which they can do in an overall or individually targeted way — making real local news less accessible than traffic for a chain media property that pays them. And that would stifle both future innovation and our ability to build sustainable, lasting local news organizations.”

Hyde continued, “If you don’t like dealing with your cable company or picking a service package for your cell phone today, imagine what it would be like if all of your Internet activities were affected by what giant media companies were willing to pay extra for, behind the scenes,” Hyde said. “Without Net Neutrality, that’ll be what we all get.”

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