Skip to main content

Congress delivers another blow to net neutrality

House Marks Up Climate Change Bill

The bi-partisan House Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology voted Wednesday to invalidate the net neutrality rules recently imposed by the Federal Communications Commission, reports the Washington Post. The vote comes just weeks after House Republicans voted to reject funding for the FCC initiative.

The Republican-led House panel issued a 15-to-8 vote, along party lines, to nullify the FCC rules, which were passed in December.

Related Videos

Congressional Republicans have been the most outspoken opponents of the FCC’s attempts to prevent Internet service providers from favoring certain types of web content over others. They say the rules would hurt job growth in the communications industries.

“If the FCC was truly weighing the costs and benefits of its actions, the agency would not be attempting to regulate the Internet,” said committee chairman Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) in his remarks on the matter. As Crunch Gear notes, Rep. Upton has received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the likes of Comcast, AT&T and Verzion — all of which oppose the FCC’s net neutrality plans. AT&T is Rep. Upton’s all-time top contributor, having donated $94,600 to his campaigns.

Proponents of the net neutrality rules argue that the FCC is not, in fact, trying to “regulate the Internet” at all. Instead, it’s trying to keep the ISPs from doing exactly that — with their own profit margins in mind.

“The commission is in no way regulating the Internet,” said Gigi Sohn, president of public interest and net neutrality advocacy group Public Knowledge. “It was merely attempting to return to a modest level of traditional authority needed to safeguard the rights of Internet users.”

Republicans aren’t the only ones who have complaints against the FCC’s rules. Even many net neutrality advocates say the new rules still allowed too much room — especially when it comes to the Internet used by mobile devices — for ISPs to abuse the system, and block users from easily accessing whatever content they like, at no extra charge.

(Image via)

Editors' Recommendations

Oregon is the latest state to jump on the net neutrality bandwagon
net neutrality rules fraud

Oregon is pushing to become another state enforcing its own protection against internet service providers in the wake of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) discontinuing its net neutrality rules. The state's proposal to create a local net neutrality policy passed the House on Monday, February 26 by a large margin, and now heads to the Senate. 
Similar to what New York state now enforces, Oregon's plan is to block state agencies from conducting business with internet service providers (ISPs) that don't abide by net neutrality principles. Even though the FCC's rules will officially go offline in April, state governments still expect ISPs to abide by those rules and treat all content and connections equally. 
The big fear with the elimination of net neutrality is that unregulated ISPs will prioritize content. For instance, an ISP could offer its own media streaming service and throttle Netflix streaming speeds. In order for Netflix to have the same flow of data, the ISP could charge Netflix additional fees which would trickle down to subscribers. 
While ISPs already provide multiple speed tiers to meet the budgets of all web surfers, blocking and/or prioritizing specific apps and content could lead to dividing the internet into "performance" tiers. Many ISPs already pledge to abide by net neutrality, but so far there is no written guarantee these companies won't backtrack on their promise.  
That is where the states come in. The governors in five states already have net neutrality rules in place including Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont. Eight other states are still working on finalizing their net neutrality rules the old-fashioned way: Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Washington, and Wisconsin. 
In most cases, these states aren't regulating internet connections in the home. Instead, they're making sure state-owned agencies and services aren't dealing with mischievous content-throttling ISPs. These include educational institutions, offices spread out across the state, and public internet access. Anyone jumping on the internet from these access points is guaranteed a free and open web. 
The FCC's net neutrality rules officially come to a close on April 23 but ISPs won't be let loose without some sort of a leash. These companies are required to publicly provide their commercial terms of service and must keep the public informed about their network management practices along with performance characteristics. The FCC believes this is a better option than forcing "costly" rules. 
But lawmakers feel that pulling business away from ISPs not honoring net neutrality may be influential but won't change their business practices. Others fear that overreaching state-owned agencies could regulate internet content on their own.  
Oregon's move to force net neutrality follows Washington's recent bill landing a majority approval in the state House on February 9, which is now facing a vote in the Senate. But like all the other states enforcing their own net neutrality rules, Washington could face a legal battle. The FCC clearly stated that it will block any state-enforced ruleset that contradicts what it already has in place. 

Read more
New York won’t do business with ISPs not adhering to net neutrality principles
net neutrality rules fraud

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo plans to ensure internet access based on net neutrality within the local government. In a signed executive order, no New York State government agency is allowed to do business with internet service providers (ISPs) that don't abide by net neutrality-based principles. The executive order does not regulate ISP business practices within the private sector. 
The order covers everything maintained by the government, such as educational institutions, offices spread out across the state, and public internet access. The declaration guarantees a free and open internet to any individual accessing the web from these points. The government can't dictate how ISPs regulate internet connections in homes and businesses. 
Prior to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reclassifying ISPs a public utility, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) kept these companies in check. ISPs didn't throttle internet speeds or filter content save for addressing customers found downloading pirated content and those who went over their monthly data allowance. But the FCC reclassified ISPs in February 2015, finalized a set of regulations four months later, and then repealed those rules at the end of 2017. 
Many ISPs pledge to keep the internet free and open, devoid of any content restrictions or throttling. Even the State of New York admits this dedication. "Many of the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) serving New Yorkers have made public pledges to continue to abide by the principles of a free and open internet despite the FCC's actions," the governor's office states. Yet the executive order serves as a "just in case" safety net if ISPs happen to change their mind.
"New York State has a responsibility to ensure the efficient procurement of goods and services for the State of New York and its political subdivisions and the principles of net neutrality are inherently tied to the provision of high quality, high-speed broadband internet service for the State," the order says. 
The FCC is currently under fire for allegedly using millions of fake comments to back its net neutrality repeal. The U.S. Government Accountability Office is investigating the issue based on claims that many comments were created by bots impersonating both the living and dead. They were provided in a comment system created by the FCC for receiving public feedback. 
Prior to the net neutrality rules, there were no clear legal protections preventing ISPs from price gouging based on local monopolies, and adjusting the quality of service based on levels of internet consumption. There were many attempts to establish rules prior to 2015, but all failed. The FCC's rules served as a guarantee of an open, unregulated internet if any ISP desired to fall back on a model based on content filtering, speed throttling, and price gouging.  
But that would be bad business and create a nasty, costly backlash. The executive order even says that "New York State is a significant purchaser of internet and broadband services." That revenue generator alone should help keep ISPs in check ... at least in New York. 

Read more
U.S. government will investigate fraudulent net neutrality comments
net neutrality rules fraud

The furor surrounding the net neutrality repeal that took place in December 2017 is continuing to be a strong political punching ground. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) will investigate claims that millions of comments provided to the Federal Communications Commission in support of the repeal were in fact made by bots impersonating real people.

The investigation comes after weeks of pushback against the FCC's ruling, with challenges coming from the attorneys general of multiple states, Firefox creator Mozilla, and the Internet Association. Political strength has also been leveraged in this fight, with many congressional Democrats backing net neutrality regulations, which ensured internet access was treated as a utility and could not be exploited by internet providers. Supporters believe such regulation is needed to ensure a free, open internet for everyone.

Read more