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Kinzinger mum on net neutrality stance

Congressman Adam Kinzinger
Congressman Adam Kinzinger

The local congressman has yet to say officially whether he supports the idea of net neutrality.

Other than general statements, U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, has not said how he will vote.

When The Times asked about the issue Tuesday, Kinzinger's spokeswoman, Maura Gillespie, said in an email, "The congressman supports a bipartisan legislative solution to internet traffic."

He was recently named to head the congressional panel that would deal with such an issue.

Current net neutrality regulations bar Internet service providers such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon from blocking or slowing down access to some websites or charge for specific online content. Now, all websites are treated equally — whether owned by large companies or small start-up, supporters say.

Net neutrality opponents contend the internet is best left unregulated. And big internet service providers promise they would not discriminate.

For the last six years, Kinzinger has maintained Congress, not the federal bureaucracy, should address the issue of net neutrality. In a 2011 congressional hearing, Kinzinger told his colleagues he had a position on net neutrality, but didn't say what it was.

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission is expected to vote on whether to repeal Obama-era regulations that require net neutrality. In a brief interview after a local event last month, Kinzinger said he was waiting to see what the FCC would do.

Of 435 House members, Kinzinger, who represents the 16th Congressional District, was 48th in campaign contributions from the big three internet service providers, Comcast, AT&T and Verizon, according to OpenSecrets.org.

Kinzinger has raised $150,000 from the three companies. That is more than triple the amount that Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline, in the neighboring 17th District, has received. She supports net neutrality.

In 2016, the House passed Kinzinger's bill (H.R. 2666) to limit the FCC's authority over protecting net neutrality.

This past March, Kinzinger also co-sponsored a bill (H.J. Res. 86) that negated a previous law protecting the privacy rights of individual internet users.

'Bureaucratic meddling'

James Marter, of Oswego, who is opposing Kinzinger in the March 20 Republican primary, said he would need to know exactly what net neutrality means before he would take a position. He said Congress has limited powers to regulate the internet.

"I see the negative effect of congressional and bureaucratic meddling in the free exercise of commerce and communications," Marter, a software consultant, said in an email. "Therefore, I am sure we the people are much better off on our own as imperfect as that may be than granting some federal bureaucracy (e.g. the FCC) powers to oversee net neutrality that will surely be used to obfuscate the mission of being 'net neutral' in the internet, by the despots and partisan bureaucrats in D.C. and resulting in favoritism (for sale to highest donor) of one oligopoly and/or monopoly business (e.g. Google, Facebook, Comcast, Twitter, etc.) over others."

Democratic views

Neill Mohammad, a Democratic congressional candidate in the 16th District, issued a news release Tuesday calling on Kinzinger to state his position.

"Rep. Kinzinger's voting record, donor network, and as of last week, appointment as vice chairman of the Digital Commerce Subcommittee reflect his investments in big telecommunications firms, not our communities," Mohammad, of DeKalb, said in the statement.

The candidate said the federal government needed to update anti-trust legislation for the digital age.

"As a staunch supporter of net neutrality, I worry greatly about the repercussions of the FCC's vote this Thursday. I stand with the thousands of voters who have protested this repeal and others," Mohammad said. "In many communities across Illinois, quick, high-quality internet is already much less common than it should be."

Another Democratic candidate, Amy Murri Briel, of Joliet, said she agreed with the vast majority of Americans "who know that a free and open internet is integral to our democracy."

"Unfortunately, we see once again how Adam Kinzinger turns his back against his constituents in lieu of massive amounts of money from ISP providers," she said in a statement.

Democratic candidate Sara Dady, of Rockford, said it would be harder for people to access information on the internet without net neutrality.

"I would be deeply concerned if private companies get to regulate what we see and what we don't see," Dady said in an interview. "I believe very much in freedom of information. I have great fears in undercutting that."

Beth Vercolio-Osmund, a Democratic candidate from Ottawa, said repealing net neutrality would hurt the 16th District.

"We already struggle to get broadband access in rural areas (39 percent of rural communities lack true broadband access)," she said in a statement. "Taking away net neutrality rules will make access to the internet even harder."

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