Republicans Put Net Neutrality in Jeopardy

The New York Times
By Vikas Bajaj

Many Republican lawmakers hated regulations that the Federal Communications Commission approved earlier this year to prevent cable and phone companies from creating fast and slow lanes on the Internet. Now, they are trying to undermine those rules through an appropriations bill.

House Republicans have introduced a bill that would effectively suspend the commission’s net neutrality rules, which go into effect on Friday. The agency could not use its budget to enforce the rules until there is a “final disposition” of three court cases brought against it by the telecommunications industry. That could take several years, because these cases might well end up at the Supreme Court. On Thursday, the United States Appeals Court for the District of Columbia Circuit denied a request by the industry to suspend the commission’s regulations while the court hears arguments in those cases.

What is particularly insidious about this provision is that it is part of a bill that appropriates money to the Internal Revenue Service, the Securities and Exchange Commission and various other critical government agencies. Republicans like Representative Andrew Crenshaw, who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services, want to make it hard for President Obama to veto the measure by putting it in legislation that keeps the government functioning.

In trying to thwart the F.C.C., Republican lawmakers are going against the wishes of the vast majority of Americans. A 2014 poll by the University of Delaware found that 81 percent of Americans oppose the idea that broadband companies like Comcast and Verizon should be able to charge companies like Netflix fees to deliver their content to users faster than information from other sources. This is just the kind of practice that the commission’s new rules would prohibit.

The appropriations bill has a long way to go before it can become law. It has to be approved the House Appropriations Committee, the full House, the Senate and Mr. Obama. Lawmakers who understand the importance of the Internet should make every effort to make sure the anti-net neutrality provision is removed from the bill.

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