GOP to fight reclassification of internet as a utility
House and Senate Republicans have introduced a bill that would thwart the Obama administration's efforts to reclassifiy the internet as a "public utility."
The bill would also protect industry from overly burdensome regulations while guaranteeing net neutrality in giving consumers equal access to the internet.
Calling the bill “rules for the road for open and unfettered access to the Internet,” lawmakers announced their plan days ahead of hearings scheduled for Jan. 21 in both the House and Senate.
According to lawmakers, the bill aims to balance the need to protect consumers who use the Internet while also shielding the industry from burdensome regulations.
The FCC, at the urging of President Obama, has signaled it is considering a move next month to reclassify the Internet so that it must follow the same nondiscrimination rules as major utilities.
But many Republicans oppose such a move, even though they embrace making Internet service providers adhere to many of the nondiscriminatory principles Obama is seeking.
“This thoughtful path forward ensures that consumers remain number one and in control of their online experience,” House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., said.
The bill would ban several unpopular Internet practices including “throttling,” in which service providers intentionally slow down Internet speeds for some users.
It would also prohibit blocking and paid prioritization, a practice that allows some content providers to avoid Internet congestion by paying a higher price for service.
Lawmakers are hoping to move quickly on the bill.
The FCC is expected to begin circulating its own net neutrality plan Feb. 5, and will vote on it Feb. 26.
The bill has a reasonably good chance of passing, since it contains some consumer protections proposed by the Obama administration supported by both sides while preventing the FCC from segregating the internet and allowing some companies to offer a "fast lane" for high broadband users.
Heading off the disaster of making the internet subject to massive government intervention by designating it a utility is the most important aspect of the bill. But it's probably not a deal-breaker for the president. There is enough of what he wants in the bill – and what the GOP has supported in the past – to prevent him from vetoing the legislation.
Most of the proposed FCC regulations are likely to end up in court anyway. This bill will guarantee an open and free internet for the foreseeable future.