Republicans Back Resolution to Block Net Rules

Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) has introduced a Resolution of Disapproval that, if passed in both houses and not blocked by the president, would invalidate the Federal Communications Commission's new network-neutrality order, which takes effect 60 days from today (April 13), the day it was published in the Federal Register. That is the same time frame legislators have to pass the resolution and get it signed by the president.

The resolution is a fast-track method of overturning federal agency regulations, but would almost certainly need a two-thirds supermajority to survive the almost certain veto by a president who strongly backed that order and its reclassification of Internet access as a Title II telecom service.

Echoing the sentiments of many Republicans, Collins said, “The FCC is proposing a federal takeover of the Internet, adding layers of slow-moving bureaucracy to high-speed communications."

Collins said the FCC made its decision "under pressure from the administration and special interest groups, which would prefer to pick political winners and losers."

"My Resolution would prevent such a grave mistake that threatens to reverse our country’s technological progress, as well as to grant the government power to regulate free speech," he added.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler initially proposed new rules that would not reclassify broadband under Title II -- Title II had been branded a nuclear option by cable operators. But last fall the momentum seemed to be turning toward some version of Title II in the mix, then appeared to pivot strongly toward Title II after the president weighed in publicly in November for that option.

Collins said the FCC's new rules "will impose new Internet restrictions, stifling technological innovation and economic growth."

Co-sponsoring the resolution are Republican Reps. Bob Goodlatte, Steve Chabot, Lynn Westmoreland, Glenn Grothman, Bob Latta, Bill Posey, Rick Allen, Ryan Zinke, Barry Loudermilk, Sam Johnson, Dennis Ross, Buddy Carter and Vern Buchanan.

"Once again, some members of Congress have sided with the phone and cable lobby and against Internet users," said Free Press Action Fund policy director Matt Wood. "But their campaign against the open Internet is all bluster. Egged on by industry lobbyists, these representatives think they can fool others in Congress and beyond to believe that Net Neutrality threatens investment and innovation in digital networks. They declare that it's a government takeover of the Internet when nothing could be further from the truth. Their recycled arguments have been so thoroughly debunked it's ridiculous that they continue to use them."

Demand Progress, which like Free Press is a big backer of Title II reclassification, offered up a warning.

"Doug Collins should think twice before he bucks the will of millions of Americans — and 85% of Republicans — by working to let ISPs shove most websites into slow lanes," the group said. "His resolution is the latest attempt by the Big Cable industry and the members of Congress who do its bidding to roll back protections that will allow the public, innovators, and small businesses to benefit from an open Internet. "

Those “Big Cable” players say they are not interested in fast and slow lanes, are willing to abide by rules, just not with Title II reclassification, and argue that the FCC’s Title II approach could chill investment and wind up morphing into case-by-case rate regulation by degrees.

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.