FCC at odds over net neutrality vote

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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has suggested that despite a vote in the US House of Representatives to approve legislation to reinstate so-called net neutrality rules that prevent Internet Service Providers from meddling with web traffic, it is unlikely to become law.

The legislation, the ‘Save the Internet Act’ from Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) passed the House 232-190, largely along party lines.

Under the Trump administration, the Federal Communications Commission voted in 2017 to overturn the net neutrality rules put in place in 2015 under the Obama administration. Those regulations barred broadband providers from blocking some websites or charging for some content. The White House has suggested President Trump would veto the measure if it reached his desk.

A statement from Pai claimed the Act would reinstate “heavy-handed” Title II regulations on the Internet. “This legislation is a big-government solution in search of a problem. The Internet is free and open, while faster broadband is being deployed across America. This bill should not and will not become law,” he declared.

By contrast, Commissioner Geoffrey Starks said he was glad the House passed the Save the Internet Act. “It protects net neutrality by restoring enforceable rules and reinstating the FCC as the cop on the beat responsible for protecting consumers. The FCC was established to promote and police the communications networks of this country. Broadband is the communications network of our present and future. The endurance of the open Internet cannot be left to chance or the whims of massive profit-maximising corporations,” he stated.

“This administration’s hasty, careless abandonment of the carefully crafted, common sense 2015 Open Internet framework was ill-considered and flat out wrong. Along the way, the Commission ignored the will of millions of people and proved itself to be out of touch with regular folks across the country, regardless of their politics, who rely on unfettered internet access as a precondition to participation in our society, economy, and democracy. I support today’s legislation, which returns us to the 2015 framework, and will follow its consideration in the Senate with interest and hope,” he concluded.

Also backing the legislation was Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who said: “Today, the United States House of Representatives voted to once again make net neutrality the law of the land. Their legislative effort gets right what the FCC got so wrong. When the agency rolled back net neutrality protections, it gave broadband providers the power to block websites, throttle services, and censor online content. This decision put the FCC on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American public.”

The momentum around the country—from small towns to big cities, from state houses to court houses, from governors’ executive actions to today’s action in Congress—is proof the American people are not done fighting for an open Internet. I’m proud to stand with them in that fight.”

Siding with Pai was FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, who said the United States had turned the page on the failed broadband policies of the Obama Administration. “By getting the government out of the way, Internet speeds are up 40 per cent, the digital divide is closing across rural America, and the US now has the world’s largest deployment of next-generation 5G networks. There’s a lot of common ground on net neutrality. But this bill studiously avoids it. It elevates the partisan politics of Title II over widely-supported rules of the road and would turn back the clock on the progress America is making,” he claimed.

Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said that like many others, he would have welcomed a clear, thoughtful, and bipartisan Congressional directive with respect to the FCC’s authority over the Internet. “However, H.R. 1644 is not even remotely an intellectually-honest or serious effort to create regulatory certainty or legislate net neutrality,” he suggested. “It is a political statement built on a broken abomination of an FCC rulemaking. I remain firmly opposed to any attempt to subject the Internet to burdensome and anachronistic public utility regulation, especially any effort to ban paid prioritisation.”

“The one positive aspect that emerged from this gamesmanship is House Democrats’ firm declaration against taxing the Internet via USF fees. Levying such fees on this vital and flourishing resource would impede Americans’ digital access, and I am glad there is bipartisan agreement on this key issue.”

 


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