It’s a no-brainer to support protecting the rights of consumers to unfettered access to the wide-ranging services and sites offered on the internet. But, similarly, states like Maryland must ensure that the robust internet infrastructure that fuels our digital economy continues to advance and make Maryland an attractive place to do business.
There is a way to accomplish both, but the current furor among advocacy groups, state legislators and governors seeking to impose state-by-state solutions, some of which are inconsistent with other state solutions, is not the best approach. While some states have chosen a “go-it-alone” approach, others like Virginia, understand that regulating the internet on a state-by-state basis is not the best policy approach -- particularly as is relates to their state’s economic competitiveness in a digital age that promises such things as automated vehicles, telemedicine, smart cities, and 5G technology.
In Maryland, four different bills in the General Assembly would prevent the State of Maryland from doing business with any internet service provider that does not agree to a laundry list of new state regulations that attempt to protect consumers’ online experience. This is a noble objective intended to pressure internet providers to continue providing consumers unfettered access to internet content and services.
However, such local measures cannot solve this concern. Only Congress can step in and fully protect consumers by developing a framework that regulates the entire Internet industry in a comprehensive, federal manner.