​Republicans aim to reverse landmark net neutrality ruling

Reuters / Steve Marcus

Reuters / Steve Marcus

The historic net neutrality ruling handed down by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week has quickly garnered opposition in the form of a few dozen Republican lawmakers who are vying to reverse the FCC’s decision in Congress.

Thirty-one members of
the GOP have already signed their names to be co-sponsors of
proposal put forth on Wednesday this week in
the House that would specifically prohibit the FCC from
reclassifying broadband internet access as a telecommunications
service if passed and outright overturn last week’s major ruling
regarding net neutrality.

The author of the bill, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), said
the FCC’s decision to regulate broadband as a public utility “is
further proof that the Obama administration will stop at nothing
in their efforts to control the Internet.”

“There is nothing ‘free and open’ about this heavy-handed
approach. These overreaching rules will stifle innovation,
restrict freedoms and lead to billions of dollars in new fees and
taxes for American consumers,”
Rep. Blackburn said of the
FCC’s ruling.

Blackburn has dubbed her bill, HR 1212, the “Internet Freedom
Act,” and it has attracted 31 cosponsors so far, all Republicans,
since being introduced.

More precisely, the passage of Blackburn’s proposal would mean
the FCC’s 3-2 decision last week to reclassify high-speed
internet “shall have no force of effect,” and prohibit
the agency from making any similar decisions in the future.

Supporters of the FCC’s ruling – including President Barack Obama
– hailed last week’s determination as a victory for open internet
in the US because it prohibits service providers from
prioritizing the delivery of online content to household

Fight for the Future, an online advocacy group, called the FCC’s
ruling “the biggest public victory against entrench[ed]
interests in history.”
According to the organization, 4
million comments to the FCC and 10 million emails at Congress
were sent in the months leading up to the commission’s decision
last week to approve a proposal with net neutrality projections
put forth by Chairman Tom Wheeler after pressure from the White
House further amplified those calls.

“This shows that the Internet has changed the rules of what
can be accomplished in Washington,”
Fight for the Future
campaign director Evan Greer told the New York Times last week.

On the other side of the issue stands Blackburn, and
two-and-a-half dozen other congressional Republicans.

FCC adopts net neutrality rules endorsed by open
internet advocates

“Once the federal government establishes a foothold into
managing how Internet service providers run their networks they
will essentially be deciding which content goes first, second,
third or not at all. My legislation will put the brakes on this
FCC overreach and protect our innovators from these job-killing
” Blackburn said in a statement released alongside the addition of
her proposal to the congressional record this week.

Blackburn, 62, has served in the House of Representatives since
2003 and also sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee as
vice chair. According to public disclosure records, Verizon
Communications, Comcast Corp and ATT Inc, – three of the
largest telecoms in the US – appear in the list of Blackburn’s
most substantial contributors during the current fundraising
cycle, having combined donated $61,000 to the Republican in
2013-2014. The National Cable and Telecommunications Association,
an industry trade group, also lobbied Blackburn during that span
to the tune of $20,000.

Separate from the lawmaker’s proposed Internet Freedom Act, three
state lawmakers in Tennessee asked the attorney general this week
to challenge the FCC’s ruling on account of being “a
violation of state sovereignty
.” As in Congress, that effort
so far garnered the support only of Republican, including the
state’s top lawyer.

“We are disappointed the FCC would assert authority over a
local governmental body, which is an area of responsibility
resting exclusively with the state in which the local
governmental body exists,
” Herbert Slatery, the attorney
general, told the Tennessean.

According to the newspaper, the telecom industry gave $643,000 to
state and federal candidates and committees in Tennessee during
the last election cycle.

“They do a good job in their lobbying efforts, and they have
a good, simple story to tell – which is always easier than a
complicated story,”
state Rep. Gerald McCormick
(R-Chattanooga) told the Tennessean. “So it will be tough to
overcome that.”

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