U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith of Minnesota along with Sen. Ed Markey from Massachusetts on Friday met with local business owners, experts and advocates to discuss an effort to reverse the Federal Communications Commission’s recent rollback of net neutrality rules.

During the roundtable discussion at Treehouse Health in Minneapolis, local stakeholders voiced concerns to the senators about how the new FCC rules — which allow internet service providers to block, slow down or speed up service to certain websites — have affected their work. Net neutrality required ISPs to treat all sources of content equally.

“We’ve got to be focusing on extending affordable, high-speed internet rather than limiting access,” said Smith, a Democrat.

Mary Fallon is co-founder and chief creative officer of Kidizen, an online resale marketplace for kids’ fashion. Fallon said the repeal of net neutrality will “greatly affect” her company and the sellers it represents. “On data transport, it will impede the information we have on our consumers to give them a personalized … shopping experience,” she said.

Sellers rely on Kidizen to advertise on their behalf, Fallon said. If the website is slower than its competitors, it could lose sellers to larger sites like eBay.

Sara Hurley, director of E-Learning Services at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health, echoed those concerns. She said research has shown consumers switch to larger platforms if page-load times exceed five seconds.

Markey is sponsoring what is called a Congressional Review Act resolution to overturn the FCC’s new regulations. During the roundtable, he and Klobuchar, both Democrats, discussed the measure and said they need support from one more Republican senator (they have commitments from 49 Democratic-voting senators and Maine Republican Susan Collins) for it to pass and move to the House.

“What we’re trying to do here is say to the American people, ‘Let’s go. Let’s get a vote on the Senate floor,’ ” Markey said.

Klobuchar said Senate approval would give the effort momentum, but it still must pass the House before one final hurdle. “Then it has to go to the president.”

 

Ryan Faircloth is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.