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Hill Hails, Hammers Pai Title II Proposal

Capitol Hill was weighing in Wednesday following FCC chairman Ajit Pai's announcement of his plans to reverse the Title II reclassification of internet access providers, eliminate the "general conduct standard," and ask what should be done with the brightline rules against blocking, degrading and paid prioritization.

How they felt about it was predictable depending on whether there was a "D" or an "R' before their name.

“As a supporter of a free and open internet, I am disappointed that Chairman Pai is taking steps to roll back net neutrality protections for consumers," said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). "The protections that are in place today are working. They hold internet service providers accountable to the expectations consumers have for internet access while protecting innovation and competition. I will oppose any actions that take us in the wrong direction.”

Democratic Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) were already on the record Wednesday as saying they would fight Pai from the Senate chamber to the courts to the arena of public opinion.

On the other side of the aisle, Republican leaders of the House and Senate committees overseeing communications and the FCC were celebrating, but also talking about the need for legislation.

In a joint statement, House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), Senate Commerce Committee chairman John Thune (R-S.D.), House Communications Subcommittee chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), and Senate Communications Subcommittee chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), said "We have long said that imposing a Depression-era, utility-style regulatory structure onto the internet was the wrong approach, and we applaud Chairman Pai’s efforts to roll back these misguided regulations. Consumers want an open internet that doesn’t discriminate on content and protects free speech and consumer privacy. It’s now time for Republicans and Democrats, internet service providers, edge providers, and the internet community as a whole to come together and work toward a legislative solution that benefits consumers and the future of the internet.”

According to a source speaking on background, Pai will be heading to the Hill Friday morning for a bipartisan Energy & Commerce Committee member briefing.

Sen. Markey has argued, and did again this week on a conference call with reporters, that a compromise bill to which the Republicans would agree would lack sufficient protections.

“The action by the previous FCC to impose a heavy-handed regulatory framework on the Internet was a misguided decision from the start," said Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio). "It’s critical we maintain an open Internet that doesn’t harm investment and innovation, and where consumers are protected. With that in mind, I commend Chairman Pai’s efforts to undo the Title II reclassification. Now is the time for all stakeholders to come to the table to find legislative common ground, and provide certainty for consumers, providers, and businesses that rely on the Internet.”

“Chairman Pai needs to cease his endless assault on internet freedom and net neutrality,' said Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) "This proposal would concentrate power to a handful of internet service providers and hinder innovation for both startups and consumers. FCC commissioners should refuse to accept Pai’s proposal and keep the current legal framework that guarantees a free and open internet. To do otherwise puts our economy and what this country stands for at risk.”

“FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is making a mistake," said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), ranking member of the Senate Communications Subcommittee. "His proposal would take away the American people’s access to a free and open internet and give control to big corporations. A free and open internet is essential to our democracy and our economy.  Everyone should be outraged by Chairman Pai’s proposal.”

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.