Wisconsin Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr. has been criticized for remarks that he made at a town hall forum earlier this week while defending his vote to repeal an Obama-era rule to prohibit Internet Service Providers from selling browser histories without informing consumers first. During the event, he responded to a constituent’s concerns, saying that “nobody’s got to use the internet,” and went on to say that he was reluctant to regulate internet companies.
During the event, the constituent noted that consumers who want to switch ISPs following the rule rollback might not have the option switch, essentially forcing them to remain with a company whose policies they disagree with.
Sensenbrenner remarked at the meeting that people could choose not to use the internet if they disagreed with the policies of their ISP. “I don’t think it’s my job to tell you that you cannot get advertising for your information being sold. My job, I think, is to tell you that you have the opportunity to do it, and then you take it upon yourself to make that choice.”
He went on to say that the internet thrived because it had been unregulated, and that further governmental regulations would stifle future innovation. Sensenbrenner’s office replied to the video on Twitter, reiterating his talking point, but a spokesperson for the representative’s office later clarified his remarks, saying that his point was that people could choose to visit certain websites if they disagreed about the terms of agreement.
The representative’s statement have attracted considerable attention online, with users saying that the lawmaker is out of touch with consumers who rely on internet access. The internet is an essential part of modern life, because of the access that it provides to information and vital services for users. While some consumers have the ability to make the choices that Sensenbrenner values, others, particularly in rural states, are only serviced by a single provider, meaning that they won’t be able to switch to another if they disagree with their ISP’s policies.