Loss of net neutrality could threaten local journalism, Stanford law student argues in essay

AG Beshear says he is ‘strongly opposed’ to changes by the FCC; will join legal action to protect Kentuckians


Reprinted from the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues blog

(Editor’s Note: The roll back on net-neutrality regulations was approved Thursday by a party-line vote of FCC members. This article and links were written prior to the FCC’s vote on December 14.)

Rolling back net-neutrality regulations, as three of the five Federal Communications Commission members plan to do tomorrow, could hurt local journalism, argues an essay by a Stanford University law student Adam Hersh, who is a fellow at the university’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

Net neutrality prevents internet service providers from charging more for certain kinds of content, or throttling or blocking other content. “If net neutrality disappears, it could have a significant negative effect on the local journalism market in the U.S.,” Mathew Ingram writes for Columbia Journalism Review, reporting on Hersh’s piece “Hersh says the market for local news is in an extremely fragile state, thanks in part to the decline of advertising, and the loss of net neutrality protections could hit local providers particularly hard.”Also, as The Rural Blog has reported, American Press Institute Executive Director Tom Rosenstiel believes an increased focus on national news in the era of Donald Trump has reduced the audience for local news.

Hersh says local journalism is often the first source of information in a crisis, and a particularly well-informed one, since local reporters know the local politics and culture. But independent local news outlets won’t have the buying power of large media conglomerates, and won’t be able to negotiate good deals for reader access with ISPs. That means fewer new readers, especially if outreach efforts involve bandwidth-heavy videos.

The rollback will likely pass on a straight party-line vote, but will also likely be challenged in court, and thus may be delayed. With Ingram’s article is a great list of current stories on net neutrality that can help provide context for an issue that can be hard to understand.

Beshear: Statement on FCC’s Changes to Net Neutrality

“I’m strongly opposed to the FCC’s changes to Net Neutrality. Earlier this week, I asked the FCC to delay any rollbacks given my concerns over fraud in the public comments process on how any changes would affect the everyday lives of Kentuckians. My office has already received multiple complaints by Kentuckians, as well as from consumers who previously lived in Kentucky, saying their identity or a loved one’s identity was falsely used. If the FCC continues with its plan, I will have no choice but to join legal action to protect Kentucky families from this sweeping and harmful policy change.” – Attorney General Andy Beshear.

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