White House Threatens Rate Reg Bill Veto

Add the President's top advisors to those opposed to H.R. 2666, the No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act, which would prevent the FCC from regulating broadband rates, either before the fact or after via its enforcement authority.

In a statement of administration policy issued Tuesday, April 12, the Executive Office of the President said that if he were presented with H.R. 2666 to sign, he would be advised to deep six it.

That veto threat comes in advance of a planned House vote April 15 on the bill, which passed a contentious and politically divided House Energy & Commerce Committee and is expected to pass a politically divided House on Friday.

Related: Public Interest Groups Urge House to Reject Rate-Reg Bill

Dems say gut the FCC net neutrality order consumer protections, and the White House agrees.

"The Administration strongly opposes House passage of H.R. 2666, the No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act, which would undermine key provisions in the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Open Internet order and harm the Commission's ability to protect consumers while facilitating innovation and economic growth," the Administration said.

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The White House echoed FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in branding ISPs gatekeepers in need of reining in by the government.

"For almost a century, our laws have recognized that companies that connect Americans to the world have special obligations not to exploit the gatekeeper power they enjoy over access in and out of our homes and businesses," said the White House. "The same philosophy should guide any service that is based on the transmission of information, whether a phone call or a packet of data. The FCC's rules — issued after a lengthy rulemaking process that garnered an unprecedented amount of public input, including comments from four million Americans — recognize that broadband service is of the same importance, and must carry the same obligations as so many of the other vital services do."

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The President very publicly came out in favor of the Title II-based Open Internet order, after which Wheeler shifted his proposal to a Title II approach, though he has said his move was not at the behest of the White House.

"These carefully designed rules have already been implemented in large part with little or no adverse impact on the telecommunications companies making important investments in our economy," the White House said Tuesday.

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"H.R. 2666 is overly broad and extends far beyond codifying the FCC's forbearance from applying provisions of the Communications Act related to tariffs, rate approval, or other forms of utility regulation," said the Administration. "Even as amended, H.R. 2666 would restrict the FCC's ability to take enforcement actions to protect consumers on issues where the FCC has received numerous consumer complaints.  The bill also would hamstring the FCC's public interest authority to review transactions.  H.R. 2666 also could limit the Commission's ability to address new practices and adapt its rules for a dynamic, fast-changing online marketplace."

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.