Republicans in the US House and Senate have introduced net neutrality bills that would strip the Federal Communications Commission of its ability to effectively regulate the internet.
The new legislation is, at its root, a way to deregulate the US telecom industry by curbing the FCC’s powers. And unsurprisingly, this kind of legislation is being championed by politicians with financial ties to said industry.
Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Fred Upton (R-Mi.) is a key force behind the bill. Upton, who has investments in AT&T, Comcast and Verizon, said in a statement, “By turning the FCC away from a heavy-handed and messy approach to regulating the Internet, this draft protects both consumers who rely on Internet services and innovators who create jobs.” The House Energy and Commerce Committee also includes Leonard Lance (R-N.J.) who has invested in AT&T, Comcast and Verizon.
Though a White House official said that new net neutrality legislation is not necessary, US president Barack Obama recommended a plan that would reclassify internet providers under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, giving the US government agency more authority to quash telecom giants’ plans to create “internet fast lanes”.
The bills introduced by the GOP congressmen do not reclassify internet providers in that way. Instead, they would neuter the FCC’s regulatory powers, which would reduce the amount of US government oversight on internet providers.
The legislation follows eleven tenets for a watered-down, candy-arse, telecom-friendly version of net neutrality:
- Prohibit blocking
- Prohibit paid prioritization
- Require transparency
- Apply rules to both wireline and wireless
- Allow for reasonable network management
- Allow for specialised services
- Protect consumer choice
- Classify broadband Internet access as an information service under the Communications Act
- Clarify that Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act may not be used as a grant of regulatory authority
- Direct the FCC to enforce and abide by these principles
Most of these things are good! But stripping the FCC of its power is not good, and that’s what “clarify that Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act may not be used as a grant of regulatory authority” means.
The complete text of the House bill is available below: