Many in Pima County could be affected by loss of net neutrality - Tucson News Now

Many in Pima County could be affected by loss of net neutrality

(Source: Sean Weigold Ferguson) (Source: Sean Weigold Ferguson)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

The FCC will vote Thursday, Dec. 14, whether to lift net neutrality rules put in place by the Obama Administration in 2015.

Those rules, which were debated at the time, sought to keep the internet free and equal.

Now, the FCC and some internet providers, believe it's time to establish new rules which may allow ISPs to charge a premium for high speed and to block certain sites.

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That has caused a fierce debate among those who feel the internet should be equal to everyone and should not be "more" available to those who can afford to pay a higher price and those who feel the internet needs some regulation.

The FCC said the new rules would make for more competition and innovation. Other claim the rules could stifle free speech.

"I think activists are doing a great job using digital tools that are available to us," said Marea Jenness, a biology teacher and activist at Tucson High School. "It could be a very big deal especially at a time when our democracy seems more fragile than ever."

Jenness organized the Women's March in Tucson last January to coincide with the march in Washington.

She organized it without ever leaving her home.

"Five thousand people committed online to come to the march," she said. "But 15,000 showed up."

Pima County will vote on a resolution on Tuesday, Dec. 12, urging the FCC to retain the current rules.

The county has a vested interest in keeping the net neutrality rules, in part because it serves a large part of its constituency, but also because it has 26 libraries and hundreds of computers in those libraries.

Everyday, they are full of students, job seekers, readers and those who seek to pass the time using the computers.

"On most days there is a waiting list to use the terminals," said Anna Sanchez, the librarian at the El Pueblo Neighborhood Center.  "A lot of families, a lot of households can't afford internet at home."

Mark Avile brings his three children to the library every day.

"I pick them up from school and bring them so they can do their homework," he said. "I'm not a rich person, I'm a low income person. It would hurt me a lot."

Jenness feels the same about here high school students who use the internet freely.

"If suddenly there's a price tag attached to my students doing research, then most of my students are not going to be able to do research," she said.

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