“Bipartisan” bill would save Internet providers from utility rules
FCC would be stripped of power to apply Title II common carrier rules to ISPs
US Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) yesterday filed what his press release called "bipartisan legislation to keep [the] Internet open [and] accessible." What the bill actually would do is prevent the Federal Communications Commission from applying common carrier rules to Internet service providers, a step the FCC appears likely to take next month.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler may propose reclassifying broadband providers as common carriers to be regulated by Title II of the Communications Act. The move would let the FCC impose net neutrality rules that restrict ISPs' ability to block, throttle, or prioritize Internet content in exchange for payment, but industry groups argue it will expose telecoms to stricter rules and impose new fees and taxes on consumers.
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“The FCC’s plans to reclassify broadband under Title II are misguided,” Latta said in his announcement. “Imposing monopoly-era telephone rules on a 21st Century industry that has thrived under the current light-touch regulatory framework will undoubtedly impede the economic growth and innovation that have resulted in the broadband marketplace absent government interference. These businesses thrive on dynamism and the ability to evolve quickly to shifting market and consumer forces. Subjecting them to bureaucratic red tape won’t promote innovation, consumer welfare, or the economy. My legislation provides the certainty needed for continued investment in broadband networks and services that have been fundamental for job creation, productivity, and consumer choice.”
Latta first proposed the bill last year along with co-sponsors Charles Rangel (D-NY) and Randy Weber (R-Texas). He reintroduced it this week with Republicans now controlling both houses of Congress. Latta is vice chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Communications and Technology Subcommittee.
The bill would amend the Communications Act to define broadband Internet access as an "information service" and prevent the FCC from reclassifying information services as common carriers. Though Latta's bill has a Democratic supporter, congressional Democrats and President Obama have generally pushed a different agenda on net neutrality.
ISPs and telecom industry groups have been among Latta's top donors. In the 2013-14 election cycle, he received $15,000 from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, $13,000 from AT&T, $10,000 from the American Cable Association, $10,000 from Time Warner Cable, $8,500 from Comcast, $8,000 from Verizon, $8,000 from NCTA - The Rural Broadband Association, and $7,500 from CenturyLink, according to OpenSecrets.org. In the case of the ISPs, donations came not directly from the companies themselves, but from their political action committees, employees, or owners in order to comply with campaign contribution rules.