Popular Democratic Party Rep. Luis Vega-Ramos and New Progressive Party Rep. Luis “Junior” Pérez-Ortíz presented bipartisan legislation Tuesday to guarantee the right of internet users in Puerto Rico to net neutrality, in light of the recent decision by Federal Communications Commission to remove such protections stateside.
House Bill 1427 seeks to establish public policy to protect free flow of all online information and content and limit the practice by telecommunications and broadband service providers doing business in Puerto Rico of bundling certain applications and charging separately for each service.
The bill would amend the Puerto Rico Telecommunications Act of 1996 to make the Telecommunications Regulatory Board responsible for protecting net neutrality.
“After the disastrous decision of the Trump administration to remove protection regarding neutral and equitable citizens access to the internet, it is vital that Puerto Rico joins the growing number of jurisdictions that are preserving this access by state law and declaring it as a right of every citizen,” said Vega-Ramos, stressing the bill is not only important for financial reasons, but also to guarantee free expression and access to information by all citizens.
Meanwhile, Pérez-Ortíz blasted the FCC’s decision to “put an end to the neutrality of the internet in the United States and its harmful consequences for users in Puerto Rico.”
In addition to concerns about the limitation of fundamental rights to freedom of expression, association and access to information, the lawmakers warned that if the bill is not approved, it would open the door for internet companies to artificially segregate access to various services, websites or applications and charge additional access fees. Hence, the bill establishes neutral access to the internet as a right.
Currently, jurisdictions like Massachusetts, Nebraska, Rhode Island and Washington have introduced legislation to counter the elimination of net neutrality, while New York and California are about to file legislation to that effect.
Preserving cyber neutrality rules has unleashed a resounding legislative and legal battle across the United States.
One local company, Liberty Puerto Rico, has already expressed support of the elimination of net neutrality rules, saying market forces should be responsible for how internet services are offered.