Critics of the FCC's rollback of net-neutrality regulations were buoyed Tuesday (July 17) by the first Republican to agree to back an effort to restore the rules.
Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) said he would back the Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution nullifying the FCC's deregulatory Restoring Internet Freedom Order, and also introduced a bill that would replace the Title II regime that the resolution would restore with a new Communications Act Title VIII-based regime, with the FCC authorized to enforce it.
Neither the CRA nor Coffman's bill are likely to succeed, but that wasn't stopping groups from applauding the effort or taking it as a sign that there was movement in the right direction.
“The dam is breaking, as it should," said Faiz Shakir, national political director for the American Civil Liberties Union. "Rep. Coffman’s support to undo FCC chairman Ajit Pai’s repeal of net neutrality shows that public pressure is continuing to build on this issue and cannot be ignored this November. Net neutrality is crucial for free speech and democracy online. Other House members should take heed of Coffman’s direction and stand by the overwhelming majority of their constituents, not corporate interests.”
Sarah Morris, director of open internet policy at New America's Open Technology Institute, said: “We are thrilled to see Rep. Coffman stand up for American consumers and small businesses in the fight for a fair and open internet, and commend his support of the CRA. Rep. Coffman has been an outspoken critic of the FCC’s repeal of the rules since the Commission’s vote in December, and supporting the CRA underscores his willingness to confront tough policy issues head on."
“Rep Mike Coffman is a net neutrality champion for signing the discharge petition and supporting the CRA," said Fight for the Future Executive Director Evan Greer. "His bill has zero chance of passing this year, but he’s shown real political courage by supporting the CRA to restore strong net neutrality protections while he and Congress debates alternative solutions."
The CRA also has little chance of collecting the four dozen or so more votes, including some from Democrats, it would need.
“Net neutrality ensures that creators can focus on investing in content that their audiences want—not arbitrary pay-to-play fees charged by gatekeeper ISPs," said Michael Cheah, general counsel for video streamer Vimeo. "Congressman Coffman’s proposed legislation recognizes this and helps protect the next generation of creators and streaming startups.”
"Coffman has demonstrated both independence and political fortitude in refusing to cower in the face of the demands of the Big Telecom lobby, instead siding with those he was elected to serve," said Demand Progress executive director David Segal. "It’s the type of bold action the public craves from its lawmakers in Washington, and unfortunately one that is all too rare. Coffman has now placed himself at the forefront of his party on an issue of immense national importance — other lawmakers would do well to follow suit."
“Congressman Coffman’s bold net neutrality action is welcome news to streamers and millennial dreamers who want to start a business online," said INCOMPAS CEO Chip Pickering.
“Startups across the country rely on net neutrality protections to keep the Internet a level playing field," said Engine Executive Director Evan Engstrom. "We applaud Rep. Coffman for supporting the Congressional Review Act resolution and advancing the debate with a bill that enshrines strong net neutrality protections.”
“Today Congressman Mike Coffman joined the 86 percent of Americans who believe in preserving strong net neutrality rules at the FCC," said Chris Lewis, VP at Public Knowledge. "His leadership demonstrates the shift of the debate from one centered on what powerful interests in Washington want, to what the American people have been demanding for years on a bipartisan basis. We are grateful for Mr. Coffman’s bold leadership and his persistent work with all stakeholders to craft his positions."
"The internet industry commends Rep. Coffman for his thoughtful approach to preserving net neutrality protections," said association president Michael Beckerman. "A majority of Americans agree that consumers should have access to the entire internet and ISPs should not be able to engage in blocking, throttling, or paid prioritization of traffic on the internet. The 21st Century Internet Act reflects these principles and is a step in the right direction. "
“Common Cause applauds Congressman Coffman for signing the discharge petition to restore net neutrality," said Common Cause special advisor and former FCC chairman Michael Copps. "By supporting this measure, Congressman Coffman is putting the interests of his constituents and the American people ahead of monopoly cable and telecommunications providers."
Critics of Coffman's effort did not hold out much hope for its efficacy given the the challenge of coming up with a bipartisan bill.
"Signing the CRA discharge petition is an empty political gesture,” said Berin Szóka, president of TechFreedom. As for the bill, he added, "[A]ny bill that leaves the FCC with sweeping discretion to regulate the Internet beyond net neutrality is dead on arrival."
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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.
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