Media reports on the GOP's latest broadband industry-backed bill should take note that the legislation is net neutrality in name only. In reality, the bill would undermine the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) ability to enact net neutrality regulations and adequately protect broadband users and providers from data blocking, or slowing down or speeding up individual websites, and access fees.
GOP Proposes Legislation To Thwart FCC Regulations
NY Times: “Republicans Push Plan In Net Neutrality Debate.” Weeks before the FCC is expected to vote on new net neutrality rules, Republican-led committees in both houses of Congress proposed legislation designed to combat any FCC action. On January 16, Republican congressmen introduced “their own version of net neutrality, arguing that new legislation, not F.C.C. mandates they say are outdated, should determine how web access is treated” according to The New York Times. [The New York Times, 1/21/15]
But, The GOP Legislation Would Undercut Net Neutrality Protections
Stanford Law Review: "New Republican Bill Is Network Neutrality In Name Only." According to the Director of Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society, the Republican proposal echoes language on net neutrality regulations used by President Obama and the FCC, but in reality is written “so narrowly” that “it fails to adequately protect users, innovators, and speakers against blocking, discrimination, and access fees”:
[A]s written, the Republican bill provides network neutrality in name only. At first glance, the bill purports to ban paid prioritization, throttling, and blocking and applies the same rules to fixed and mobile networks, echoing language used by President Obama and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to describe their network neutrality proposals. But on closer examination, the bill is so narrowly written that it fails to adequately protect users, innovators, and speakers against blocking, discrimination, and access fees.
A meaningful network neutrality regime requires bright-line rules prohibiting all forms of access fees, application-specific discrimination, and blocking. Unfortunately, the Republican bill is insufficient along each key dimension required to achieve real network neutrality, thereby dramatically departing from the network neutrality consensus that emerged over the past year. Thus, as currently written, the bill does not constitute an alternative to the adoption of meaningful network neutrality rules by the FCC under Title II of the Communications Act, coupled with appropriate forbearance. [Stanford Law Review, 1/20/15]
IBT: GOP Legislation Would Undermine FCC's Ability To Enact Net Neutrality Regulations. As the International Business Times reported, the legislation proposed by congressional Republicans purports to ban broadband providers from blocking or speeding up certain content, or from charging content providers for faster access -- but in reality, undermines the FCC's ability “to impose stricter regulations on broadband companies” by establishing open-Internet rules. [International Business Times, 1/21/15]
Free Press: GOP Legislation “Undermines The Open Internet It Claims To Protect.” In a January 21 statement, Free Press Action Fund noted that the GOP legislation would “declaw the one agency responsible for protecting the public interest in communications,” rather than “safeguard Net Neutrality,” as it claims to do:
Despite what they claim, this legislation won't safeguard Net Neutrality. The bills instead would undermine the FCC's ability to protect Internet users by removing broadband and wireless companies from nearly all agency oversight.
“The legislation fails at the very thing it claims to accomplish. It prohibits a few open Internet violations but opens the door to new industry abuses. It claims to give the FCC limited adjudication powers but removes the agency's ability to adopt and adapt rules to fit the changing landscape for high-speed Internet access. [Free Press, 1/22/15]
The Hill: GOP Bill Will Undermine Future Consumer Protection Efforts And Prevent Broadband Development. In a January 21 op-ed, experts at the Open Technology Institute at the New America Foundation explained that the GOP legislation would “strip the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of crucial legal authority that protects consumers and small businesses on the internet,” by limiting the FCC's ability to “adapt to evolving consumer harms.” They also explained that the narrowly-written legislation would “eliminate the FCC's ability to help cities build broadband”:
Making matters worse, the legislation would leave the FCC powerless to protect consumers from other broadband harms not specified in the bill text, such as those that are already occurring in the interconnection context. When the FCC enacted net neutrality rules four years ago, few anticipated that ISPs would congest their own networks as a strategy to extract fees from edge services like Netflix. But that's precisely what happened throughout 2013 and 2014, according to data collected by the Measurement Lab (a research consortium that includes the Open Technology Institute). The congestion harmed millions of Internet users whose connection speeds slowed to the point of unusability -- but the FCC had no mechanism in place to help these consumers. This prolonged, damaging behavior by multiple ISPs demonstrates why the FCC needs the flexibility to respond to problems as they evolve.
The bill would also eliminate the FCC's ability to help cities build broadband. This is a blow to municipalities that want to offer broadband service to their residents, particularly those currently restricted by state barriers to municipal broadband projects. The Open Technology Institute has consistently found that some of the fastest and most affordable broadband service in America comes from cities that have invested in their own infrastructure. Congress should be figuring out ways to support local government. Instead, the Thune-Upton bill prohibits the FCC from responding to communities that have asked for help. [The Hill, 1/21/15]
GOP Bill Is Backed By Top Broadband Industry Lobbyists
WSJ: GOP Proposal Backed By Broadband Industry's Top Lobbyists. The Wall Street Journal explained that the GOP bill is backed by “the top lobbyists for both the broadband and wireless industries.” [The Wall Street Journal, 1/21/15]