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We Build Alaska

The Internet should be fair and open, overregulation threatens economic growth

Alaska has seen significant technological improvements over the years. Thanks to expanded broadband, thousands of Alaskans can be connected to anyone, anywhere. As access to broadband continues to grow, it is paving the way to new opportunities. From distance learning to telemedicine, and anything in between, the horizon has never been brighter for Alaskans to have it all.

Soon 5G data will make things even faster, opening new markets and new pathways to innovation. Anchorage will become one of the first cities worldwide to roll out a 5G data network. Telecom companies GCI and Ericsson announced earlier this year they would launch a $30 million project that will increase Internet speeds and connectivity to the Internet citywide.

We have made more progress than ever before, and Alaskans should be encouraged. But there is still more work to be done.

Some parts of the state still lack essential broadband access. Today, 20 percent of Alaskans do not have access to broadband. Among school districts, Alaska ranks dead last in the country in meeting the minimum Internet speed requirements, putting our children at a learning disadvantage. In rural areas of the State, the digital divide is even more glaring.

That is why it is troubling that Congress is considering reinstating net neutrality regulations from 2015. This bureaucratic red tape will end the Internet as we know it and turn it into a government-run public utility. By redefining net neutrality, the progress Alaska has made when it comes to broadband technology will come to an abrupt stop.

If building new broadband infrastructure stalls, so will job creation and economic growth. We know this will be the outcome because it is exactly what happened during the Obama-era net neutrality regulations. The country lost hundreds of thousands of jobs and tens of billions of dollars in investment.

This is not what Alaska needs now as our economy has just begun to come out of a recession. Unemployment is still high and we need more jobs. We need more companies like GCI and Ericsson to ensure Alaska is a state that is ripe with opportunity when it comes to broadband infrastructure.

The free market economy is always strongest when there is limited government intervention. Heaping burdensome regulations on the private sector will only disincentivize companies from investing in our communities. If we cannot attract the private sector, Alaskans will miss out on new jobs and the opportunity to rebound our economy.  We will not be able to build on the progress we have made thus far.

Reopening the net neutrality debate simply turns the Internet into a political tool. Speaker Pelosi and others in Congress are allowing cities like San Francisco and New York City to decide what net neutrality means for the rest of the country. Urban cities do not understand what government overregulation will do to states like Alaska.

Consumer protections are important. Every Alaskan should have access to an Internet that is fair and open. But the Internet is working fine as it is. In fact, it is better than it has ever been. Allowing the government to interfere with the Internet would be catastrophic for Alaskans. Our lawmakers must push back. We have come too far for congressional meddling to stall our progress.

Bethany Marcum worked in telecom for a decade, and is now Executive Director of Alaska Policy Forum.

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3 years ago


3 years ago

Net neutrality won’t “end the internet as we know it”, but it will does keep it an open medium. It does protect the consumer’s freedom. Net neutrality keeps internet service providers from blocking legal content, or preventing customers from connecting the devices of their choosing to their internet connections. Some examples: If there was a website which spoke out against against a business such as GCI, GCi could block access to that website. Or they could limit video streaming making it almost impossible to watch Hulu or Netflix, and then our only choice would be…wait for it… GCI Cable!

3 years ago

Have 5G; it’s slower.
We don’t need faster cell speeds as that increases smart phone usage which is killing us.
More than 20% of Alaskans do not have access to adequate health care; who cares about internet speeds.
Increasing internet speeds IN THE BUSH is not going to increase Alaskan employment.
School Districts could have more bandwidth if there was enough money to pay for it; no matter who builds the infrastructure there is no money to pay for it, especially as people like you Bethany try to kill public education education funding.

3 years ago
Reply to  Marc

Even Adam Smith understood that ALL markets need some kind of regulation. Economies are always the least stable and most unequal when they are least regulated. Regulations ARE NOT what is controlling investment in infrastructure in Alaska, and the absence of regulation results in horrific abuses of the public by private enterprise (can you spell Berkeley Pit?) It was “private enterprise” that tried to turn the internet (a government invention) into a political tool. We don’t have government over-regulation, and the Senatorial crier for your argument (Senator Dan Sullivan) refused to provide any documentation whatsoever to support his claims to… Read more »

3 years ago
Reply to  Marc

Our economy may have been coming out of recession, but APF’s Governor has been waging a war to create the worst recession Alaska has ever experienced, so you can forgive us if we don;t buy your projections?
Alaska’s unemployment rate is as low as it has ever been, despite the fact that the rate is arguably not accurate because it does not properly reflect subsistence activities.
There is no such thing as a “free market”.

3 years ago

Old. Behind the curve has been news. You’ll thank me for the criticism later.

3 years ago

Net neutrality has nothing to do with Universal Service funds. Good try though. I hope your Verizon and AT&T stocks do well for you.

3 years ago

^^^It shouldn’t be any surprise this “Community Voice” wants to shift power from the general population to corporate executives.

3 years ago


3 years ago

Here’s one more reason why the Alaska Policy Forum doesn’t represent the best interests of Alaskans.

Loose Seal
3 years ago

Is this a rejected ADN Op-Ed?

3 years ago

GCI can suck it. I’m so glad TelAlaska has brought unlimited internet to Nome!!

3 years ago

It would help if she took the time to explain her reasoning behind why the net neutrality rules would stop broadband infrastructure development.
From some googling it sounds like a broader definition of what a small rural carrier is would alleviate the burden of some of the more onerous reporting requirements, but nothing about infrastructure which is heavily subsidized by federal grants.
I actually seen to remember the exact opposite of her claim- if the internet is designated as a necessary utility, then the federal government is required to spend MORE on infrastructure to get access to all Americans.