WASHINGTON D.C. — Today, House and Senate Subcommittees held hearings on a Republican discussion draft for legislation to protect an Open Internet and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s separate proposal to reclassify broadband under Title II of the Communications Act.

“It’s disappointing that Democrats seem unwilling even to discuss a legislative solution that could finally resolve the decade-long net neutrality debate,” said Berin Szoka, President of TechFreedom. “Instead of just objecting to the Thune-Upton discussion draft, why not propose amendments? Have they forgotten how ‘regular order’ is supposed to work?”

“President Obama has complained for six years that Republicans are unwilling to work with him. Well, they’ve come to the table on net neutrality, and Democrats have snubbed them — pushing unilateral, regulatory fiat instead of hammering out bipartisan legislation,” continued Szoka. “Even if the FCC goes through with Title II reclassification, it won’t accelerate an end to the decade-long debate over net neutrality. Only Congress can provide clarity, transparency and permanence. Whatever the FCC cooks up behind closed doors will only get mired in court when it finally sees the light of day — and we’ll wind up right back where we started, with Congress having to decide what to do. Why wait until 2017?”

“If Republicans really want to stop the FCC from imposing Title II on the Internet, they need to offer a grand bargain,” suggested Szoka. “Republicans can’t accept a deal that leaves the FCC with a blank check to regulate the Internet. The same edge companies also pushing for net neutrality regulation should also fear that the FCC will use Section 706 to regulate them, too. Democrats are fixated on letting the FCC use 706 to preempt state laws on muni broadband, yet delude themselves if they think this will stand up in court. The solution is obvious: clarify that Congress never intended 706 as a sweeping grant of authority but preempt state laws that truly hinder muni broadband deployment. Most Congressional Democrats voted for that compromise in the Comm Act Update of 2006.”

“Muni broadband should be authorized only as a last resort,” concluded Szoka. “Cities should first have to cut red tape and fees, and offer to lease access to smart infrastructure like Dig Once conduits and poles. There are a host of other ways Congress could implement the lessons learned by Google Fiber, Verizon and other private companies as they’ve struggled to deploy new networks. If Democrats won’t even discuss that deal, we’ll know that their talk of net neutrality and broadband competition has merely been cover for their real goal: returning to the bad old days of regulated monopoly.”

Szoka can be reached for comment at media@techfreedom.org. See more of our work on net neutrality and Title II, including: