As a historic vote looms to give the Federal Communications Commission power over Internet Service Providers to enforce net neutrality, House Republicans are attempting to sway the FCC away from the proposal.
Leading up to Thursday when the FCC votes on the new rules, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) called the FCC’s proposal “net nonsense,” remarking that it’s going to fail to gain court approval.
Under the proposal by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, ISPs would fall under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, giving the FCC authority to implement and enforce open internet protections. This would essentially stop providers like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Sprint and T-Mobile from favoring certain Internet traffic under most conditions. They had previously been treated as lightly regulated “information services”.
Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) believe they have a better way.
These Republicans have put forth legislation in the House (PDF) that would give the FCC authority to administer some tenets of net neutrality such as paid prioritization of content, but not give the FCC broader oversight over ISPs. They also believe this legislation will resist court challenges that the FCC is overstepping its bounds.
Wheeler, a former government lobbyist and telecom industry insider, had previously proposed in 2014 that ISPs should be allowed to prioritize certain online traffic to create an internet “fast lane” that was panned by Net Neutrality activists. In contrast, his latest regulations are far more in line with President Barack Obama’s Net Neutrality stance, spurring congressional committee investigations into the White House’s influence over the FCC, which is supposed to operate as an independent agency.
Upton has also noted that Chairman Wheeler has refused to testify the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and that he “refuses to directly answer growing concerns about how the rules were developed, how they are structured, and how they will stand up to judicial scrutiny.”
This story will be updated with the results of the FCC vote on Thursday.