But not everyone is on board with the idea that the FCC should say that broadband service is a utility. One opponent, Republican lawmaker Bob Latta, just introduced a bill that would prohibit the FCC from moving forward with a “misguided regulatory proposal” to reclassify high-speed Internet service.
“Reclassification would heap 80 years of regulatory baggage on broadband providers, restricting their flexibility to innovate and placing them at the mercy of a government agency,” he said in a statement issued late on Wednesday. “These businesses thrive on dynamism and the ability to evolve quickly to shifting market and consumer forces. Subjecting them to bureaucratic red tape won’t promote innovation, consumer welfare or the economy.”
The bill itself says that reclassification “would severely harm broadband investment and create myriad negative unintended consequences.”
Latta isn't the first Republican to oppose rules that would insure net neutrality.
Several years ago, when former FCC chairman Julius Genachowski proposed open Internet rules, a coalition of GOP lawmakers backed legislation that would have banned the agency from using government funds to adopt or implement neutrality regulations. That effort went nowhere, and the rules were enacted -- only to be gutted earlier this year by a federal appellate court.
The FCC now is attempting to pass new rules that will stand up in court. The agency also is seeking comment on whether to reclassify broadband as a utility, though it's made no moves to do so.
But unless the agency recategorizes broadband an “telecommunications” service, it won't have the authority to pass rules prohibiting ISPs from discriminating -- such as by creating “fast lanes” for some companies.
The FCC's proposed rules, which were unveiled earlier this month, would prohibit outright blocking of sites. But the rules also appear to allow Internet service providers to make deals with “edge providers” (content companies like Netflix or Amazon) for faster delivery. The problem is that giving fast-lane treatment to some content providers means that everyone else will seem slow by comparison. Advocates say that system will present a significant problem for startups, nonprofits and small companies that can't afford to pay extra for speedy online delivery.