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Citing Sununu Telecom Ties, N.H. Dems 'Disappointed' By Governor's Stance On Net Neutrality

Federal Communications Commission/Flickr

The New Hampshire Democratic Party is criticizing Governor Chris Sununu’s support for the repeal of so-called net neutrality laws, arguing the FCC’s decision could harm consumers, as well as the state’s longshot bid to lure Amazon’s second headquarters to the state.

Last week, FCC Commissioners voted 3-2 to repeal the Obama-era policies that prohibit internet service providers from blocking websites, as well as creating “fast lanes” on the internet. On Monday, Sununu applauded the decision, saying that “over-regulation protects monopolies and hurts consumers.”

Backers of the net neutrality repeal say it will lead to greater innovations and more competition in the market, while supporters argue repeal the move could raise barriers for small companies and threatens a free and open internet experience.

During a conference call Tuesday morning, state Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley said that it is “frankly disappointing to see (Sununu) take this position, especially given how many people in New Hampshire this action will hurt, and how widespread the support for net neutrality is.”

Some large technology companies including Amazon have voiced opposition to the repeal of the rules, something Buckley said could harm New Hampshire’s chances of luring Amazon’s second headquarters to Londonderry. The proposal has received significant support from Sununu.

“While they search for a second headquarters, Amazon may steer clear of states whose governor refuses to stand up for internet customers," Buckley said.

During the conference call, Buckley also noted that John E. Sununu, a former U.S. Senator from New Hampshire and brother of the governor, has ties to Broadband for America, an advocacy group that supports repeal of net neutrality rules.

Publicly available financial documents show that from 2013 to 2015, John E. Sununu received more than $830,000 in compensation from the group for consultancy work.

The payments became a point of controversy when John Sununu failed to disclose them while serving as a columnist for the Boston Globe.

A spokesperson for Gov. Sununu rejected any suggestion that his position on the matter was swayed by financial concerns, calling the statements by the state Democratic Party “baseless.”

Last week, New Hampshire’s all-Democratic congressional delegation urged state Attorney General Gordon MacDonald to join other states in pursuing legal action to block the repeal of net neutrality rules.

In a letter dated Dec. 18, MacDonald responded that his office will not join a lawsuit, writing that “federal communications policy and regulation is a matter reserved for Congress and federal agencies and thus, is outside the jurisdiction and expertise of this Office.”

Free-market advocacy groups, including Americans for Prosperity-New Hampshire, praised the governor and attorney general for their position on net neutrality repeal.

“We applaud the FCC’s decision to scrap this federal takeover of our internet and Governor Sununu and Attorney General MacDonald’s efforts to ensure that America and New Hampshire are able to benefit for remaining a technology leader for years to come,” AFP’s Greg Moore said in a statement.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.

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