The next big Congressional standoff may not be over immigration or health care, but how the FCC should be allowed to regulate the internet and internet providers.
Back in December, reports surfaced that lawmakers were meeting with industry officials to draft legislation that would prevent the FCC from implementing the aggressive net neutrality regulations touted by President Obama:
Multiple sources have reported that a bipartisan effort has been under way for several weeks in Congress to draft legislation that would supersede the FCC’s efforts while providing a solid legal foundation for enforceable rules after a decade of failed efforts by the commission.
This week, Politico reported that Senate Commerce Committee ranking member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) has been working on a Net neutrality bill with the committee chairman, John Thune (R-S.D.).
Nelson told Politico that he and Thune had “talked extensively” about a bill that would solve the FCC’s Net neutrality problem without transforming ISPs into public utilities, but that the two “don’t have any resolution.”
“Stay tuned,” Nelson told Politico. “It’s going to be exciting.”
Congressional urgency isn’t misplaced. Yesterday, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler “all but confirmed” that the Commission intends to regulate the internet under Title II of the Communications Act, which means that when those new regulations go into effect, the internet will be treated like a public utility.
Via The Hill:
“There are many parts of Title II that are inappropriate and would thwart investment, but a model has been set in the wireless business that has billions of dollars of investment” and is thriving in other ways, Wheeler said.
“We ought to take a look at how that fits together with … making sure that we have open access,” he added. “You walk the floor [of the electronics trade show] and that’s the message that comes across to me.”
He also confirmed that the vote would be held on Feb. 26 and that his new rules would be circulated to the other four commissioners on Feb. 5.
The FCC has been working on new regulations for months, after a top appeals court tossed out the old rules last January.
Currently, the Internet is classified as an “information service” under the law, different than a “telecommunications service” such as traditional phone lines.
According to Cnet, “[t]he question may soon become not how the FCC will vote, but whether they will wait for Congress to pursue a potential bipartisan compromise.” Past net neutrality bills haven’t moved quickly—or at all—which means that if Republicans can’t get something going in a hurry, they may be left dealing with a new, legally-shaky framework as opposed to the need for a backstop.
A legislative-regulatory battle, coupled with the likelihood of major lawsuits brought by internet providers, could make for a polarizing beginning to the new GOP-led Congress.DONATE
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