FCC-Limiting, Net-Neutrality-Scuttling Bill Passes House

Image courtesy of DoorFrame

The House of Representatives passed a bill this morning that seeks to limit the FCC’s net neutrality authority and could limit the commission’s ability to investigate consumer complaints about unreasonable charges from and behavior by their ISPs.

The bill, formally called the No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act (HR 2666), passed in a 241-173 vote this morning, almost entirely along party lines.

Since ISPs are now classified as Title II common carriers, the FCC has the authority to impose rate regulation on them. However, in the open internet rule, the FCC specifically forbore from doing so. Commission chairman Tom Wheeler has said several times that the FCC has no interest in rate regulation, and added that imposing it now would require another public rulemaking process, but a number of lawmakers have sought to pre-empt that being able to happen anyway by codifying the current forbearance into permanent law.

Critics of the bill, including the Obama administration, argue that the language is too broad and “extends far beyond codifying the FCC’s forbearance” into “restrict[ing] the FCC’s ability to take enforcement actions to protect consumers.”

The White House already promised earlier this week to veto the bill if it should come to President Obama’s desk. But before that could happen, the Senate would first have to take it up and get it passed in an identical form. Which, realistically, they are not likely to get done during this year’s remaining working days (PDF).

In other words, this is pretty low on the list of immediate concerns for net neutrality, especially with the big court ruling expected as soon as next Tuesday.

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