The Wall Street Journal has an interesting piece today that discusses new ways that Republicans in Congress will try to stop the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from imposing net neutrality rules on broadband Internet providers. The FCC is expected to publicly release and vote on the new rules at some point next month.
Net Neutrality advocates want the FCC to classify broadband providers as a utility which would allow the FCC to actually have authority over rules/regulations already in place. At the moment, the FCC’s power is minimal at best. But according to Republicans, net neutrality is a “step too far” and “regulatory overreach by the FCC” and that such rules could hurt future progress with cyber-security and wireless spectrum.
So, what could Republicans do if the FCC takes the next step towards classifying broadband providers as a utility?
In the House, a Republican staffer for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees the FCC, said lawmakers won’t know what steps they will take until they see the agency’s final plan. But all options are on the table, he said, including legislation to block reclassification and cutting the agency’s budget. – Wall Street Journal
The FCC is already vastly under-staffed and over-worked due to multiple record-breaking acquisitions being put on its table, such as the Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger.
This isn’t even the first time that Republicans have tried to slash the FCC’s budget. Last year, the House put forward an appropriations bill, H.R 5016, the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, that cut the FCC’s budget by $17 million and was $53 million less than what the FCC was requesting. This on top of the already significant cuts that the FCC dealt with during sequestration from the previous year.
As the Wall Street Journal reports, John Thune (R-SD), the incoming chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, is one of the main forces behind the potential Republican manuever. It also isn’t hard to see why he is so much against net neutrality, he has quite the history.
In 2009, a number of Republicans proposed a spending measure that prohibited the FCC from “expending any funds in fiscal year 2010 to implement any Internet neutrality or network management principles, or to promulgate any rules relating to such principles.”
As Stop The Cap noted then, AT&T donated more than $400,000 to the six Republicans opposing Net Neutrality, and one of those senators used to work for a Washington DC lobbying firm that was hired by Comcast. His name is John Thune (R-SD).
A year later, another group of Republicans, including Thune, introduced a new bill titled the “Freedom for Consumer Choice Act (FCC Act),” which was essentially written by AT&T. As TechDirt noted at the time, AT&T was the top contributor to most of the politicians involved in the bill and the few politicians who didn’t have AT&T’s donor support in past year suddenly saw AT&T appear on their list of top contributors.
As Politico wrote about recently:
The fact that this argument is even slightly political is ridiculous. This isn’t a conservative or liberal issue. Consumers want their internet without absurd and arbitrary restrictions. That is it. As shown by the sky-rocketing prices and average service, consumers are even willing to over-pay to have such freedom on the internet. As this site has mentioned on a number of occasions, net neutrality has never nor will ever have anything to do with the government “controlling the Internet.”