Democratic federal lawmakers really want the FCC to regulate Internet

SEARCH THIS: U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R- Tenn., is an ardent critic of the FCC and its net neutrality rules. She says the FCC’s net-neutrality rules would place Internet service providers in “an outdated regulatory framework.”

By Josh Peterson | Watchdog.org

WASHINGTON — Democratic lawmakers in the nation’s Capitol are pushing to expand the Federal Communications Commission‘s authority over the Internet by restoring the commission’s so-called “net neutrality” rules struck down by a federal court in January.

Democrats in the House and the Senate on Monday introduced the Open Internet Preservation Act of 2014, a bill aimed at reversing the D.C. Circuit Court‘s decision in January to repeal the FCC’s rules barring Internet service providers from blocking or slowing down lawful content and services.

The court’s decision left intact the FCC’s rule requiring Internet service providers to disclose how they manage Internet traffic, but both sides of the debate were left reeling over the implications of the decision’s impact on the agency’s regulatory authorities.

Defenders of the FCC’s net neutrality rules claim the regulation preserves the First Amendment against Internet service providers, despite the First Amendment’s purpose as a check against government power.

Verizon, the plaintiff in the lawsuit, also framed its case as a First Amendment issue, however, by claiming the regulation — which dictated how ISPs manage their traffic — infringed on the company’s free speech since Internet service providers transmit content over their networks.

California Democratic Rep. Anna Eshoo and Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Ed Markey, both of whom are sponsoring the bill in their respective chambers, promoted the bill as a stopgap until the FCC updated its rules in a manner that would withstand further scrutiny by the courts.

Tennessee Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn, an ardent critic of the agency and its net neutrality rules, blasted the effort, saying the FCC’s rules would place ISPs in “an outdated regulatory framework.”

“It’s more than ironic that the same Administration that can’t figure out how to make Healthcare.Gov work now thinks that regulating the Internet like China and Russia will make things better for American consumers,” said Blackburn in a public statement.

Berin Szoka, president of the free-market think tank, TechFreedom, wrote in a blog post that the court’s decision “opened the Pandora’s Box of Internet regulation by both the FCC and state regulators.”

“This bill would do nothing to close that box, leaving the FCC free to require anything from copyright filtering to micromanagement of smart home devices,” Szoka said.

Pronouncing a death sentence for the bill in the divided Congress, Szoka criticized the bill’s authors for not focusing instead on how the agency could promote competition and the deployment of broadband.

“So whatever the theoretical limit on the FCC’s power to regulate Net Neutrality, or the Internet in general, the reality could be much more draconian,” Szoka wrote .

Contact Josh Peterson at jpeterson@watchdog.org. Follow Josh on Twitter at @jdpeterson

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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