Net Neutrality

FILE - In this Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, file photo, demonstrators rally in support of net neutrality outside a Verizon store in New York.  (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

As founders and co-owners of two of Lafayette’s leading-edge agriculture businesses, we have a sound grasp on where food production is headed in Louisiana. Helical Holdings is currently in production of a second hydroponic lettuce farm which will provide the Lafayette Parish school system with fresh greens from local farms. Acadiana Food Hub has recently launched our “virtual farmers market” concept using the Waitr app for local food delivery solutions. Agricultural businesses like ours are vital to the Louisiana economy.

Agriculture is the second-largest industry in the state, generating over $10 billion a year. The FCC’s December repeal of net neutrality is a huge threat to this industry. That is why we are joining thousands of small businesses across America and in Louisiana in asking U.S. Sen. John Kennedy to do his part to ensure that net neutrality remains the law of the land. Net neutrality is the notion that all traffic on the internet must be treated equally by the big cable company internet service providers.

Without net neutrality, farmers will struggle to compete in the face of competition from supermarket giants who can afford to pay ISPs "fast lane" fees or be stuck with ISP apps and online services. Fortunately, the fight is not over. Kennedy has a chance to be the 51st vote in favor of a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution. Voting in favor of the CRA should be easy: 83 percent of Americans (including 75 percent of Republicans) oppose the FCC’s action. Kennedy seems stuck on three arguments, all made by net neutrality opponents, none of which are valid:

  • "The issue is best solved by legislation rather than rulemaking at the FCC": Legislation is nice, but the CRA must come first. Unless we pass the CRA, businesses and internet users will suffer be unprotected from anti-competitive practices by ISPs, as early as June 11.
  • "The FCC’s order is simply restoring things to the way they were before 2015." This claim is simply false. There have always been net neutrality protections enshrined in rules of various kinds and blessed by the courts.
  • "Net neutrality protections reduced the incentive to invest in broadband infrastructure, particularly in rural areas." The general claim about investment is also false, even according to the ISPs themselves. With respect to rural investment in particular, the FCC concluded that net neutrality is neither the problem nor its repeal the solution. The net neutrality repeal is a direct threat to the Louisiana agriculture industry. Kennedy signing the CRA would send a message to the FCC that the Louisiana won’t stand around while our farming communities and small businesses are harmed by telecommunications’ quest for profits.

Zack McMath

president, Acadiana Food Hub NPO

Kohlie Frantzen

farmer/managing partner, Helical Holdings