Four Senate Democrats wrote to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday to oppose GOP efforts to defund net neutrality rules through spending legislation. The extreme leftist John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wrote “Telephone and cable companies do not own the Internet. But if [the anti-neutrality effort] is successful, they will.”
The spending bill that passed the House on Saturday included language to prevent the FCC from using funds to implement its controversial net neutrality rules, which it passed in December over strong objections from Republicans.
The four Democrats went on to write, “We ask you to object to any similar efforts here in the Senate. Such action aims to strip the FCC of its legal authority over modern communications and hand control of the Internet over to the owners of the wires that deliver information and services over them.”
In testimony before the Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet Laurence Brett Glass owner and founder of Lariat, a wireless Internet service provider in Wyoming, makes a compelling argument for repealing the FCC net neutrality rules.
Firstly, the rules address prospective harms rather than any actual problem. Contrary to what some advocates of regulation say, ISPs have never censored legal third-party Internet content. Customers would quickly move to competitors if they dared to try. Secondly, even before the rules were issued, the Commission’s NPRM created uncertainty, which, in turn, drove away investors. The final rules are vague, permitting “reasonable network management” but not fully defining what the word “reasonable” means.
“The rules also allow anyone – whether or not he or she has service from the provider in question – to file a formal complaint alleging violations. Even now – before the rules have taken effect! – groups here in Washington, DC have filed complaints against Metro PCS for offering an affordable smartphone service plan which prohibits a few bandwidth-hogging activities. There are other plans available for those who do not like those terms, and the minor restrictions are more than worth the fantastic deal users get. But Metro PCS, one of the shrinking number of competitive mobile wireless providers, must answer the complaint and may be forced to stop offering service plans that customers willingly choose and enjoy. “
“My own company, which is much smaller than Metro PCS, could suffer a similar fate. Our most popular residential service plan comes with a minor restriction: it does not allow the operation of servers. Mr. Chairman, most Internet users would not know what a server was if it bit them, and have no problem uploading content to a Web site such as YouTube for distribution. Business customers that do need to operate servers can obtain that capability by paying a bit more to cover the additional cost of expensive rural bandwidth. But if the rules take effect and the FCC decides against Metro PCS, we’ll almost certainly be forced to shift everyone to the more expensive plan. We will therefore be less competitive and offer less value to consumers.
We will also hesitate to roll out innovative network management practices and services, for fear that the Commission would find fault with some aspect of them. For example, selling priority delivery of data – even for a new high-tech service, such as telepresence – is strongly disfavored by the rules. This is the equivalent of telling UPS or FedEx that they cannot offer shippers overnight delivery, because it is somehow unfair to those who use less expensive ground service.”
The Republicans in the House are acting responsibly in their role as a check on the unauthorized overreach of the FCC. Commissioner Robert McDowell explains it well in his dissent;
Today, the Commission is choosing to ignore the recent past as it attempts the same act. In so doing, the FCC is not only defying a court, but it is circumventing the will of a large, bipartisan majority of Congress as well. More than 300 Members have warned the agency against exceeding its legal authority. The FCC is not Congress. We cannot make laws. Legislating is the sole domain of the directly elected representatives of the American people. Yet the majority is determined to ignore the growing chorus of voices emanating from Capitol Hill in what appears to some as an obsessive quest to regulate at all costs. Some are saying that, instead of acting as a “cop on the beat,” the FCC looks more like a regulatory vigilante. Moreover, the agency is further angering Congress by ignoring increasing calls for a cessation of its actions and choosing, instead, to move ahead just as Members leave town. As a result, the FCC has provocatively charted a collision course with the legislative branch.