Several weeks ago, several Republican lawmakers publicly questioned whether FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's proposal for the “strongest open Internet protections" in U.S. history was the product of undue influence by the White House.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) went so far as to schedule a House Oversight Committee hearing on the matter for today. This morning, however, he canceled the hearing after Wheeler refused to testify.
“We are deeply disappointed in Chairman Wheeler’s decision,” he said in a joint statement with Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich). “So long as the chairman continues to insist on secrecy, we will continue calling for more transparency and accountability at the commission.”
Other Republican lawmakers say they're going to press forward with legislation even after tomorrow's meeting, at which the FCC is expected to declare broadband a “telecommunications” service and impose the kinds of common carrier rules that will prohibit Internet service providers from blocking sites, degrading traffic, or cutting fast-lane deals with content companies.
“One way or another, I am committed to moving a legislative solution, preferably bipartisan, to stop monopoly-era phone regulations that harm Internet consumers and innovation,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said in a statement issued last night.
Earlier this year, Thune and other Republican lawmakers unveiled legislation that would have required broadband providers to follow some net neutrality principles, but also would have prevented the Federal Communications Commission from enacting more stringent rules. Specifically, that measure would have prohibited ISPs from blocking or degrading content, and banned them from charging companies higher fees for faster delivery. But the draft bill also would have stripped the FCC of authority to reclassify broadband service as a utility, and to impose additional regulations on providers.
Other opponents of the FCC's anticipated move also insisted today that they favor new legislation. Rick Boucher, a former Democratic congressman from Virginia who now chairs the telecom-backed group Internet Industry Alliance, warned today at a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing that if the GOP wins the next election, a Republican-led FCC could undo tomorrow's vote.
Regardless, the odds appear overwhelming that by this time tomorrow, the FCC will have moved forward with regulations requiring broadband providers to follow open Internet principles.