The Many Ways Congress Could Mess Up Net Neutrality
Now that the FCC’s historic Net Neutrality rules are out in the world, the real drama in Congress is about to get underway. In fact, anti-Net Neutrality mania is taking over Capitol Hill for the rest of the month.
Here’s a quick rundown of the biggest threats we see coming in Congress.
Who introduced it: Rep. Marsha Blackburn
What it does: Forbids the FCC from reclassifying broadband service under Title II and from ever doing so again without further congressional action. The bill has 31 co-sponsors, and all but two have gotten campaign money from the same companies trying to kill the open Internet.
Resolution of Disapproval
Who will introduce it: Rep. Doug Collins
What it does: A resolution of disapproval (RoD) is a procedural move Congress can use under the Congressional Review Act to block the FCC’s rules from taking effect. Like the Blackburn bill, it would bar the FCC from reclassifying unless Congress acts to allow it. Congress can’t introduce an RoD until the rules are published in the Federal Register, which should happen some time in the next few weeks.
What it does: The House and Senate Appropriations Committees dole out funding for government agencies. This often becomes a politicized process and the committees may try to block the FCC from using any money to enforce its rules.
Who introduced it: Sen. John Thune and Rep. Fred Upton
What it does: This bill is the wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s been around since last year and is being presented as compromise legislation. This fake Net Neutrality bill is riddled with loopholes and would legalize harmful discriminatory practices. It would also strip the FCC of its authority to adopt and enforce rules.
Congress’ anti-Net Neutrality members are holding five hearings over the next two weeks to scrutinize both the FCC and its Net Neutrality rules:
March 17: House Oversight and Government Reform Hearing: “FCC Process: Examining the Relationship Between the FCC and the White House”
March 18: Senate Commerce Hearing featuring all five FCC commissioners
March 19: House Commerce Hearing featuring all five FCC commissioners
March 24: House Appropriations Hearing (will likely focus on cutting funds the FCC needs to enforce its rules)
March 25: House Judiciary Hearing: “Wrecking the Internet to Save It? The FCC’s Net Neutrality Rule”
Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (pictured) will argue that existing antitrust law is sufficient to police Internet service providers and that new regulation is unnecessary. The hearing will also likely feature accusations that the White House improperly influenced the agency.
Witnesses: FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, and Federal Trade Commissioner Joshua Wright
Original photo by Flickr user Gage Skidmore