E&C to Mark Up Broadband Rate-Reg Blocking Bill

The Energy & Commerce Committee has scheduled a full markup Tuesday (March 15) of a bill that would prevent the FCC from regulating the rates broadband subscribers pay for service.

The bill is H.R. 2666, the No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act, sponsored by Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.).

It passed out of a divided subcommittee Feb. 11.

Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden had been hopeful there could be some meeting of the minds before full committee mark-up, though a Hill source said that had not yet happened and it was likely to be a divided outing once again, though they remained hopeful for a different outcome.

It is essentially a stand-alone form of a rider that did not make it on the omnibus budget bill. While FCC chairman Tom Wheeler says his new Open Internet order is not an effort to regulate rates, Kinzinger wants to make sure that does not happen now or under a future chairman.

There is bipartisan agreement on the committee that the FCC should not regulate broadband rates, a motion seconded by FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, who has repeatedly said the FCC has no plans to use new authority under Title II regs to do so.

But there is a difference of opinion on how to do that. Democrats have issues with the Republican bill, which they argue is overly broad and could also prevent the FCC from enforcing some other parts of the Open Internet order.

As passed out of the subcommittee, the bill simply states that "Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Federal Communications Commission may not regulate the rates charged for broadband Internet access service..."

But without a definition of what that covered, the Democrats feared it covered too much and that specificity was needed.

John Eggerton

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.