Rubio, Cruz Back Bill to Nullify Title II Reclassification

To mark the one-year anniversary of the FCC's partisan vote to impose Title II-based network neutrality rules, eight Republican senators including two presidential candidates co-sponsored a bill to nullify that vote and prevent any future reclassification of Internet access as a telecommunications service subject to Title II.

Presidential candidates Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Ted Cruz (Tex.) signed on to the bill, spearheaded by Sen. Mike Lee (Utah), along with former candidate Rand Paul (Ky.), John Cornwyn (Tex.), Tom Cotton (Ark.), Benjamin Sasse (Neb.), and Thom Tillis (N.C.).

The bill is essentially one paragraph, and states: "The rule adopted by the Federal Communications Commission....on Feb. 26, 2015 (relating to broadband Internet access service) shall have no force or effect, and the Commission may not reissue such rule in substantially the same form, or issue a new rule that is substantially the same as such rule, unless the reissued or new rule is specifically authorized by a law enacted after the date of enactment of this Act."

“The Internet has always been one of the best models of the free market,” said Rubio in a statement after the bill was introduced. “There are low barriers to entry, back and forth communication between consumers and providers, and a rapid evolution of ideas. “Through burdensome regulations and tight control like the net neutrality rule, the government only hinders accessibility and the diversity of content,” he said. “Consumers should be driving the market, and we can help by encouraging innovation, incentivizing investment, and promoting the competitive environment this industry needs.”

“The threat of anticompetitive behavior should always be taken seriously,” Lee said in introducing the bill, [b]ut it makes no sense for a five-person panel of presidential appointees to write a sweeping law aimed at solving a problem that might someday exist. There are more effective, more democratic, and less intrusive ways to address anticompetitive behavior, including existing antitrust and consumer-protection laws.”

The bill makes a statement, but is highly unlikely to make it into law. Republicans tried a similar net neutrality- blocking maneuver with riders on last year's omnibus budget bill.

On the other side of the presidential race, both former Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) are big backers of net neutrality rules. Sanders, in fact, joined in an amicus brief from Democratic senators last fall backing the FCC in its court defense of Title II-based regs.

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.