My business partner and I made the conscious decision to design and develop our software startup Eariously here in central Maine — an area not often thought of as a major tech hub — because we value being part of our new community, and we recognize the untapped economic potential this region holds. While Silicon Valley startups garner disproportionate hype, startups in communities like ours face different challenges and deserve to have our voices heard on the major policy challenges we face.

Take, for example, net neutrality — the basic idea principle that gatekeepers shouldn’t be able to dictate or restrict what we can see or do online. In other words, in order to preserve an open internet, big internet companies and platforms should have to follow some straightforward rules: no blocking, no throttling, and no unfair pay-to-play “fast lanes” and “slow lanes.”

Last month, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., upheld a 2017 Federal Communications Commission order that repealed the previous administration’s net neutrality regulations. It’s the latest in a long, tangled history of court cases on the issue — all stemming from the fact that Congress has never written a simple law protecting net neutrality.

In the wake of this ruling, it’s more important than ever for Congress to work in a bipartisan fashion to protect the open internet in a way that also addresses the digital divide in rural America. The internet is meant to be open and fair for all of us — and that includes Americans in rural areas who are struggling with inadequate broadband access.

Net neutrality as a general principle has broad, bipartisan support. Almost everyone agrees that an open internet is worth protecting. Small companies like ours would never stand a chance against Silicon Valley’s tech giants if we were forced to bid for access to internet fast lanes. That’s why we urgently need federal rules to protect the open internet and ensure vibrant competition, innovation and investment in the digital economy.

Where the debate has broken down is around questions of how to achieve this goal. Progress in Congress has run aground on questions of whether to root net neutrality rules in 1930s telephone utility laws, or in a more modern framework crafted specifically for the internet, which economists argue would encourage greater broadband investment. It seems irresponsible to allow the debate to fall apart at this stage instead of finding a solution that both protects net neutrality and encourages broadband buildouts.

After more than 15 years of these FCC battles and judicial setbacks, including last month’s court ruling, it’s time for a common-sense solution to be passed into law.

As a digital designer, I’m concerned that Congress’s inability to reach pass a bipartisan net neutrality bill leaves the open internet unprotected. As a central Mainer, I believe it’s critical for Congress to break that impasse in a way that encourages more investment in broadband networks in our area.

Businesses based in Waterville, frankly, have a different perspective on our nation’s broadband challenges than one based in the elite corners of San Francisco. Here, protecting the open internet and expanding rural broadband are both equally important to us.

You don’t have to drive too far from our community before you’d reach areas that still lack adequate access to broadband (which we believe to be a fundamental right). The digital divide isn’t a theoretical dilemma in central Maine; it’s a very real challenge that is holding the region back from reaching its full potential. It’s objectionable to suggest net neutrality needs to come at the risk of deterring investment in rural areas.

The best way to protect net neutrality is through a permanent, bipartisan law. It’s essential that permanent rules are passed so that blocking, throttling and paid prioritization are outlawed, while ensuring a modern oversight framework that will allow innovation and investment to flourish.

In a divided Congress, no bill has a chance of passing without bipartisan support. Sen. Angus King, as a independent with credibility on technology and entrepreneurship issues, is particularly well-suited to help lead an effort to bring colleagues together and forge a bipartisan agreement. He represents exactly the kind of statesmanship we need now to get the job done and pass a bill to protect net neutrality.

Should you feel compelled to share your opinion about net neutrality and broadband connectivity, I encourage you to contact both of our senators to share your perspective.

Nick Rimsa is the co-creator of Eariously, an iOS app that turns internet text into audio with the tap of a button. Eariously is based in Waterville at Bricks Coworking & Innovation Space.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.