WASHINGTON D.C. — Today, the Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on “Preserving an Open Internet for Consumers, Small Businesses, and Free Speech.” Last night, Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH), the Republican Ranking Member, introduced legislation reportedly adapted from the last substantive Democratic net neutrality bill, offered back in 2010 by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), then Committee Chairman. While the text of Latta’s bill is not yet available, the Waxman bill and the discussion draft introduced in 2015 by Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) would both have codified in statute bright-line rules against blocking, throttling and requiring transparency while also ensuring that broadband remains free of heavy-handed regulation and taxation under Title II. The Thune-Upton bill dropped the Waxman bill’s distinction between wireline and wireless services, as did the bill introduced by Marsha Blackburn in 2017.
A coalition letter led by TechFreedom, submitted for the record before today’s hearing calls for bipartisan legislative compromise:
It is time to end the lengthy, distracting, and toxic fight over net neutrality. Only legislation can do that. Unless Congress and the President act, jurisdiction over this issue will continue to swing between the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under Democratic administrations and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) under Republican administrations. Neither side will be satisfied: Some will argue that the FTC cannot adequately protect consumers. Others will worry that the FCC’s claims of vast authority to regulate broadband will necessarily discourage investment — not just in broadband but also other services as well. This looming possibility remains despite the FCC’s 2017 Restoring Internet Freedom Order, because companies making long-term decisions must assume the next Democratic FCC will re-assert these broader claims of statutory authority.
There has long been bipartisan consensus on the core of net neutrality. Simply put, consumers should be able to access lawful content and services of their choosing…. While there remain some important and legitimate disagreements over how to implement net neutrality principles, the debate that has consumed so much of the limited attention of the FCC and this committee over the last eleven years has principally been about the authority claimed by the FCC to regulate Internet services….
If Congress provides clear statutory authority for the enforcement of net neutrality principles, there will be no need for the FCC to reassert authority under either Title II or Section 706. In exchange for such authority, Congress should clarify that (i) Title II does not apply to Internet-based services other than “interconnected VoIP” (which replicates the ability of traditional telephony to call NANP phone numbers) and (ii) Section 706 confers no independent authority.
In opening remarks today, Democratic Committee leaders harped on claims that repeal of the net neutrality rules allowed Verizon to throttle California firefighters last summer. TechFreedom President Berin Szoka debunked these claims in a detailed analysis last summer.
* * *
Szoka is available for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the issue, take a look at some of our recent work:
- Republicans Propose Net Neutrality Legislation Again. Will Democrats Engage?, our release about the 2017 Blackburn bill
- Only Congress, not the FCC can fix net neutrality, Szóka’s op-ed in WIRED
- FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr interview on Tech Policy Podcast
- FCC Chairman Ajit Pai interview on the Tech Policy Podcast
- Pai Brings Unprecedented Transparency to Open Internet Proceeding, Graham Owens’ blog post
- How net-neutrality advocates would let Trump control the Internet, Szóka’s op-ed in the Washington Post
- The Feds lost on net neutrality, but won control of the Internet, Szóka’s op-ed in WIRED