A new proposal by House Republicans would effectively put an end to net neutrality while slashing funding for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The legislation would reduce the agency’s funding by more than 17 percent, likely leaving the agency crippled and incapable of enforcing its regulations.
The proposal would also explicitly prohibit the agency from making any rules regarding either cable set-top boxes or Net neutrality. “The bill contains $315 million for the FCC -- a cut of $69 million below the fiscal year 2016 enacted level and $43 million below the request,” according to a statement from Hal Rogers, chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations.
Over the past two years, Rogers has received more than $25,000 in campaign contributions from the telecom industry, according to OpenSecrets.org, a resource for federal campaign contributions.
“The legislation prohibits the FCC from implementing the Net neutrality order until certain court cases are resolved, requires newly proposed regulations to be made publicly available for 21 days before the commission votes on them, prohibits the FCC from regulating broadband rates, and requires the FCC to refrain from further activity of the recently proposed set-top box rule until a study is completed," according to the statement.
Casting Doubt on the FCC
The cuts are part of the U.S. House of Representatives' budget proposal for 2017. House Republicans have previously tried to prevent the FCC from enacting regulations regarding Net neutrality and cable rates, but have so far been unsuccessful.
Republicans in the House have argued that the proposed rules would be in line with the objectives described by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler (pictured above) in his testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations in 2015. But Wheeler explicitly contradicted that assessment in a March letter to House Republicans.
Wheeler wrote that the House’s proposed rule “would introduce significant uncertainty into the commission's ability to enforce the three bright-line rules that bar blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization rules, as well as our general conduct rule that would be applied to issues such as data caps and zero rating.”
In addition, Wheeler said the Republican proposal would also "cast doubt" on the FCC’s ability to ensure that broadband providers receiving universal service subsidies do not overcharge their consumers, while also hamstringing aspects of the commission's merger review process. “I write to make plain that this bill is not consistent with the views I expressed last year,” Wheeler said.
An Ongoing Fight
As a result of the legislation, the FCC would effectively be barred from developing any regulations on Net neutrality regardless of how the market landscape might change in the future.
And, based on the timing requirements outlined in the bill, any action the agency wants to take to open the market for set-top boxes to third-party suppliers would have to wait until at least 2017, after President Barack Obama is out of office and potentially after Wheeler has been replaced as well.
While Obama is likely to veto any legislation that would block one of the key initiatives of his FCC chairman, Republicans are likely to continue the fight against Net neutrality with the next president.
Posted: 2016-06-09 @ 10:31pm PT
Vince Vartek, you are partially correct. There always have been aspects of the Wild Wild West (the WWW) within the world we know as the Internet. However, even back in the day, of: cowboys (and cowgirls), free roaming native, wild horses, wagons, hard labor, ponytails and Stetsons, new outposts soon realized that they needed a sheriff. How else could the fledgling citizenry afford protection from the lawless, from the opportunists, including from the hired guns that usually were funded by the wealthy. So it is, in the outpost called the internet, in order to ensure it flourishes, unhindered and un-tethered, preserving access to all content, for all (with necessary limitations, of course, e.g., child porno and other exploits), there has to be a law-and-order sheriff in town. That sheriff, the FCC is paid for by we the people; the "consumers". Net Neutrality protects choices and our pockets. Paul Calonge, let's not fall prey to those who would have us believe that "that the Feds can't be trusted". We the people are the federal government. By all means, let us hold our federal government accountable by electing civic and reasonable minds that truly uphold the interests (private and commercial) of the citizens first and foremost. If the hired guns get rid of the sheriff, whose interests do you think would be better served and protected? I strongly support state rights. At the same time, throughout our history, who has the citizenry called on in times of great turmoil and upheaval when the job isn't getting done at the state level?
Posted: 2016-06-06 @ 6:37am PT
@Ronald Toirrah: The Internet has been operating in what you call a 'Wild West scenario' since the early 90's and it's been doing just fine. 'Net Neutrality' is an Orwellian term that means the exact opposite. It means government control and centralized bureaucracy forcing their rules on you. Now you have choice. You don't like Comcast, switch to Dish Network. You don't like Netflix, watch movies on Amazon. With the 'wild west' consumers are in charge. With the FCC, the lobbyist with the biggest budget will decide for you.
Posted: 2016-06-04 @ 5:30pm PT
I would rather take my chances with Comcast and Google rather than the Federal Government. There are options in the private sector, the NSA has already proven that the Feds can't be trusted.
Posted: 2016-05-31 @ 3:25pm PT
What Republican, Hal Rogers, chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations and others advocate is akin to the introduction of a Wild Wild West scenario into the telecommunications and the internet sphere. Removing Net Neutrality clearly would skew access in favor of a handful of private commercial interests and would go against the welfare of the very people whom Mr. Rogers represents. What ever happened to the ideals of "we the people”? If I am not mistaken, the internet highway was constructed with public funds; effectively, on behalf of and to the betterment of all of our interests, not solely commercial enterprises. Net neutrality ensures that the keys to internet access are not turned over to one group to the detriment of others. Under funding the FCC (a component of one of the three prongs of the checks and balances in our democracy, I believe) and throwing Net Neutrality under the bus, is at odds with the ideals and principles for which this great country stands. Not to mention, it would put the US at odds with Europe and other countries that support keeping the playing field level, in this regard. Net Neutrality is good for businesses too. How would US enterprises reconcile the dichotomy that would result across the pond? Would this not foster greater uncertainty within the market place? Let’s face it, a clear and present threat - cadres of illegality being perpetrated by individuals, gangs and foreign governments - already exists within the internet. How would turning over the keys to access to the few and eliminating restrictions by crippling the FCC keep those who would do harm to the internet and the US from overrunning the system?
Le Anh Tan:
Posted: 2016-05-29 @ 5:44pm PT
"three bright-line rules that bar blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization rules, as well as our general conduct rule that would be applied to issues such as data caps and zero rating", Dave Thomas, do you have problem with those rules? Let us try to discuss issues in terms of their merits. Clearly Mr. Hal Rogers acts on behalf of the the telecom industry, and Mr. Wheeler's views and actions are on behalf of the public. You are wrong about "politicized government bureaucrats" because Mr. Wheeler will likely be replaced if Mr. Trump is elected. Like you imply, the election has consequences. The public deserves what it gets after each election.
Posted: 2016-05-29 @ 1:22pm PT
As the communications providers keep growing, the cost of services growing and the quality keeps dropping.
Posted: 2016-05-29 @ 11:02am PT
Hear! Hear! Office holders who actually won elections in a Democratic process instead of politicized government bureaucrats answerable to no one!
Posted: 2016-05-29 @ 10:41am PT
Keep Net Neutrality. To hell with the Republicans.