Congress has asked some of the country's largest broadband providers and tech companies to testify at an upcoming hearing about net neutrality.
“A strong consensus is forming across party lines and across industries that it’s time for Congress to call a halt on the back-and-forth and set clear net neutrality ground rules for the internet,” Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said Tuesday at an oversight hearing.
Walden added that he has invited the top executives of Facebook, Google, Amazon, Netflix, Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and Charter to testify before the Energy and Commerce Committee on September 7.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who chairs the telecom subcommittee, reiterated her criticism of the Federal Communications Commission's 2015 net neutrality rules.
The FCC "pushed far beyond its legal authority to create an unstable set of mandates and a mountain of unanswered questions," she stated. "The ensuing drama has benefitted certain interest groups but has been detrimental for American innovators and consumers, whose experience and reliance on the Internet are diminished by the lack of clear and predictable rules."
In 2015, the FCC classified broadband access as a utility service in order to impose some common carrier rules on carriers -- including bans on blocking, throttling and charging higher fees for prioritized delivery. Current FCC Chair Ajit Pai, who opposed the net neutrality rules, recently proposed gutting the regulations by reclassifying broadband as a telecommunications service.
Many web companies -- including Facebook, Google, Amazon and Netflix -- oppose Pai's move, arguing that the open Internet rules promote competition and innovation online.
But the large broadband companies oppose the rules, arguing that they shouldn't be regulated like utility companies. Some, including Comcast, AT&T and Verizon, have called for Congress to pass new laws addressing broadband traffic.
"We believe the best way to end the game of regulatory ping pong that has been played in the net neutrality space for the past decade, would be for Congress to act and give clear legal authority and legislative direction," Comcast said earlier this month in a blog post. "In the end, bipartisan legislation is the best course to pursue."
Watchdog Free Press criticized Walden for apparently failing to invite small companies or consumer advocates to the hearing. “The idea that Net Neutrality is something that just needs to be sorted out between the executives of multibillion-dollar companies is insulting," Free Press Action Fund Campaign Director Candace Clement stated. "Who will represent internet users, innovative startups and independent voices at this hearing? This is an internet hearing without the internet. The Republican leadership in Congress and at the FCC have closed their ears to these voices and ignored the overwhelming evidence that the rules on the books are working just fine."