While some members of Congress have argued that the best way to deal with net neutrality is to create a law that guides what broadband providers can and can’t do with regard to data, one legislator from Tennessee — who has received significant money from neutrality’s biggest opponents — has introduced a bill that would kill neutrality and strip the FCC of its authority to regulate broadband as a necessary piece of telecommunications infrastructure.
Last week, a politically divided FCC voted to approve new neutrality rules that would prevent Internet service providers from blocking, throttling, or prioritizing any legal content carried over the web. In order to do this, the Commission had to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service (as opposed to the long-used “information service” classification that involves fewer regulations).
The “Internet Freedom Act” [PDF], introduced yesterday by Tennessee Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, seeks to “prohibit the Federal Communications Commission from reclassifying broadband Internet access service as a telecommunications service and from imposing certain regulations on providers of such service.”
More precisely, it aims to nullify last week’s vote and prevent the FCC from ever reissuing or adopting similar neutrality rules “unless the reissued or new rule is specifically authorized by a law enacted” by Congress.
So the Freedom Act would give true freedom to neutrality opponents like the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, AT&T, Verizon and Comcast (a neutrality-hating wolf in sheep’s clothing), as ISPs would be unfettered by rules against blocking competing content or giving higher priority to their own content.
And if you look at the top contributors to Blackburn’s campaign and leadership PAC, you’ll see these same names showing up:
We’re not saying that Rep. Blackburn introduced this bill because of the substantial donations from these groups, but when the congresswoman states that “My legislation will put the brakes on this FCC overreach and protect our innovators from these job-killing regulations,” you might be getting an insight into whether she’s on the side of consumers or the ISP industry, even though many Internet and telecom giants — like Google and Sprint, have explicitly stated that neutrality will not harm innovation or investment.
Blackburn has also recently introduced legislation to take away the FCC’s authority to preempt state and local laws restricting municipal broadband services.
More than 20 states have laws that forbid or highly restrict local governments from operating broadband services even if consumers want them and there isn’t adequate service provided by privately run companies. On the same day the FCC voted to approve the neutrality rules, it also sided with two municipal utilities — one in Tennessee and one in North Carolina — that offer broadband service but face limits on their ability to expand these offerings because of state laws that received telecom industry support.
Blackburn’s legislation, as the title implies, would strip away the FCC’s statutory authority to preempt local laws that inhibit broadband deployment.