GOP bill aims to kill net neutrality rules, limit FCC authority

Several senators are continuing the Republican attack on net neutrality rules adopted under the Obama administration with a bill called Restoring Internet Freedom Act, which they call a complement to  the FCC chairman’s effort to repeal the rules.

The senators’ vision of a “free internet” is one that’s free from government regulations, despite the fact that the internet is no longer an up-and-coming technology and has become a utility that’s vital to the world economy.

The bill, written by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and co-sponsored by eight other GOP senators including Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, would “prohibit the Federal Communications Commission from reclassifying broadband Internet access service as a telecommunications service and from imposing certain regulations on providers of such service.”

The full text of the GOP bill isn’t available yet, but it appears to have been introduced in the 2015-16 session of Congress as well. Section 2 of the bill isn’t fleshed out, but it is titled “limitation on authority of the FCC.”

Lee, along with Cruz and Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, wrote an op-ed published Thursday in the Washington Post.

“The Internet was not broken when the FCC began its crusade to fix it,” they wrote, and went on to say that “the 2015 Open Internet Order was a solution in search of a problem” and that it relied on “‘hypothetical harms.”

Proponents of net neutrality say the rules can help ensure that internet access providers don’t create slow and fast lanes online, and can help level the playing field between upstarts and established internet-based companies that might prioritize their own services over others’.

Former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and a couple of Democratic senators wrote in a recent op-ed in the Washington Post that “in many ways, it’s our small, innovative, next-generation businesses that have the most to lose.”

Ajit Pai, the new chairman of the FCC, recently unveiled his plan to dismantle the rules. With two Republicans and one Democrat in the FCC, the hard-fought rules — finally adopted in 2015 — could be thrown out.

The FCC opened up commenting on Pai’s proposal last week; so far the agency has received more than 30,000 comments online.

 

Photo of a laptop by Jeff Chiu/AP

 

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