Representative Blackburn’s Bill Fails to Restore Net Neutrality, Guts FCC Protections for Broadband

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Today, Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced a bill in response to the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of net neutrality last week. The bill would prevent Internet Service Providers from blocking and throttling online content, but would still allow for paid prioritization of content, and would remove almost all other FCC consumer protection authority over broadband networks.

Like other existing net neutrality bills, this bill is a woefully inadequate solution to last week’s elimination of strong net neutrality protections. Instead adopting a weak substitute for net neutrality, Congress should use the Congressional Review Act to reverse the FCC decision and restore the Open Internet Order.

The following can be attributed to Chris Lewis, Vice President at Public Knowledge:

“Unfortunately, Representative Blackburn’s bill falls short of restoring the strong net neutrality protections in the 2015 Open Internet Order. Like other inadequate legislative efforts in recent years by opponents to the 2015 rules, this bill is not a substitute for what was lost and ignores the overwhelming public opinion supporting the recently-repealed rules. Americans should demand nothing short of a full restoration of net neutrality protections. Fortunately, Congress can achieve this by supporting the proposals to overturn the FCC net neutrality repeal with a CRA Resolution of Disapproval.

“By not banning paid prioritization, Representative Blackburn allows broadband providers to have the power to prefer some content over others - allowing for a pay-to-play internet that entrenches dominant web services and ISP-affiliated content at the expense of new entrepreneurs, ideas, and innovation.This is harmful to a free market online where independent voices and small businesses can compete fairly with big media and tech giants. When Chairman Ajit Pai and the FCC reclassified broadband as a Title I information service, they eviscerated the FCC’s authority to protect consumers on non-net neutrality issues such as access for the disabled, authority over emergency 911, protection against monopoly price gouging, and privacy and data breach protections. By including this classification into the bill, Rep. Blackburn would permanently take the FCC out of the business of protecting broadband subscribers. Public Knowledge detailed many of these non-net neutrality powers in lost with Title II in our past testimony before Congress.

“The fact that Representative Blackburn felt the need to introduce legislation to reverse her own party’s FCC Chairman’s repeal of the agency’s authority to protect the public from anti-competitive and anti-consumer actions by cable and telecom companies shows how toxic and unpopular Chairman Pai’s actions are. It is unfortunate that the FCC vote last week has left Americans in a situation where net neutrality rules have been repealed, without a replacement. Even so, the public should not be fooled by proposals that fall this short.”

You can view our latest blog post on this topic here, and our new video explainer of the CRA process here

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