Senate Republicans Rail Against Net Neutrality Proposal

Dozens of Republican senators are blasting a proposal to reinstate the Obama-era net neutrality rules, which prohibited providers from blocking or throttling content, and charging higher fees for prioritized delivery.

“Re-imposing heavy-handed, public-utility regulations on the internet would threaten the progress our country has made since 2017, and it would steer our country out of the fast lane and into a world of less competition, less choice, less investment, slower speeds, and higher prices,” Senators John Thune (R-South Dakota) and Ted Cruz (T-Texas) and 41 other GOP senators say in a letter sent Thursday to FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel.

The lawmakers write that there is no “policy or legal rationale” to move forward with the proposal, adding that any attempt to revive the prior rules would be “an historic mistake.”

The letter comes nearly two weeks after Rosenworcel said she will ask the full commission to vote on whether to seek public comment on proposed rules -- the first step in a lengthy process that could result in new regulations.



Rosenworcel's proposal includes a key provision reclassifying broadband as a utility service, regulated under Title II of the Communications Act. That reclassification is necessary to restore the FCC's authority to regulate broadband carriers. 

The FCC classified broadband access as a utility service in 2015, and also imposed some common carrier rules on providers -- including bans on blocking or throttling traffic. The following year, the agency came under Republican control and repealed the 2015 order. Former chairman Ajit Pai said at the time that the 2015 rules were too heavy-handed. 

Thune and the others now argue to Rosenworcel that the 2017 repeal didn't harm people's ability to access broadband.

“The growth of the internet continues to be a great American success story,” they write. “Broadband investment has increased, deployment has increased, speeds have increased, and high-speed internet access has become more affordable than ever.”

Many Democratic lawmakers, by contrast, have urged the FCC to reclassify broadband as a utility and reinstate the former open internet rules.

“Only with Title II classification can the FCC prohibit unreasonable and unjust practices of broadband providers, effectively protect network resiliency and national security, ensure service quality, expand internet access, and combat anti-competitive practices,” Senators Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts), Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and 25 others said late last month in a letter to Rosenworcel.

The advocacy group Free Press, which supports net neutrality, says its research shows that broadband investment increased after the FCC voted to pass net neutrality rules in 2015.

"According to Free Press research, capital investments by publicly traded ISPs were 5 percent higher following the FCC’s 2015 open internet vote when compared to the two years prior to the adoption of these rules," the group states. "During this time, cable-industry physical-network investments increased 48 percent compared to the amount invested during the two years prior."

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