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Appropriations Bill Would Block Net Neutrality Rules

At press time a D.C. federal appeals court had yet to rule on staying the FCC's Title II reclassification of ISPs, but Congressional Republicans were trying to implement a legislative stay in a bill that would also cut the FCC's budget substantially, force publication of FCC drafts and prevent any new net neutrality rules from leading to rate regulation.

The just-released Financial Services Bill out of the House Appropriations Committee gives the FCC $315 million, a cut of $25 million from FY 2015 and a whopping $73 million below its request for 2016. But none of that money can be used to implement the FCC's new network neutrality rules until the court challenge is resolved.

That is according to a summary of the bill released by the committee. "The legislation prohibits the FCC from implementing net neutrality until certain court cases are resolved, requires newly proposed regulations to be made publicly available for 21 days before the Commission votes on them, and prohibits the FCC from regulating rates for either wireline or wireless Internet service."

ISPs are concerned that the new rules could lead to rate regulation through case-by-case reviews of business models that might be challenged at the FCC. The publication of FCC drafts is among the FCC reforms approved last week in the House Energy & Commerce Committee.

“This sneak attack on Net Neutrality would undermine the historic actions the FCC took in February and leave Internet users everywhere defenseless against the cable industry as its spurious legal challenges wind their way through the courts," said Matt Wood, policy director of the Free Press Action Fund, which is a strong Title II supporter. "Anyone who supports this measure is taking the side of the phone and cable lobby and hurting the rest of us. Trying to hide such an important measure hundreds of pages into an appropriations bill, on an issue the public overwhelmingly supports, shows why so many people distrust and are disgusted by business in Washington."

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.