Budget Proposal Seeks To Prevent FCC From Enforcing Net Neutrality

The latest attempt at net neutrality rules are slated to kick in later this week, but a federal budget proposal by the House Appropriations Committee would not only cut into the FCC’s resources, but prohibit the Commission from enforcing the new regulations, along with stripping its ability to regulate things like fees and data caps.

According to the Committee’s breakdown of the appropriations in the proposal that was adopted today, the FCC’s budget would be $25 million less than it was last year and the agency would be barred “from implementing net neutrality until certain court cases are resolved.”

More precisely, the budget proposal [PDF] states that “None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to implement, administer, or enforce [the Open Internet Order], until the first date on which there has been a final disposition of all of the following civil actions:”

It then goes on to list three separate lawsuits pending against the FCC, all of them seeking to block the enforcement of the neutrality rules.

The FCC has repeatedly stated that it believes its new net neutrality rules will withstand a legal challenge, but you’ll notice that the proposal refers to the “final disposition” of all of these lawsuits. If passed, it would likely hold up enforcement of the order for several years. The Verizon lawsuit that gutted the original Open Internet Order took four years before a federal appeals court ultimately sided against the FCC.

In addition to seeking to indefinitely hold up enforcement of the Open Internet Order, the budget proposal forbids the use of FCC funds to “regulate, directly or indirectly, the prices, other fees, or data caps and allowances… charged or imposed by providers of broadband Internet access service.”

The folks at Free Press have dubbed this move by the Appropriations Committee a “sneak attack” on net neutrality.

“[U]nlike other threats that we’ve seen emerge in Congress, this is particularly troubling because it’s hidden deep inside a big funding package that the House needs to move so that the government can continue operating,” explains the advocacy group.

[via Ars Technica]

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