House Tries To Use Appropriations Bill To Kill Neutrality Rules, Strip FCC Authority And Funding
from the Obamacare-for-the-Internet dept
For most of the last few months the House has been holding a series of “investigative” hearings into the FCC’s passage of net neutrality rules. On the surface, the hearings claim to be aimed at ensuring the FCC is operating transparently and within the confines of its authority, but in reality the hearings have been about one thing: publicly shaming the FCC for standing up to deep-pocketed campaign contributors like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast. Of course this never-ending “fact finding mission” has accomplished absolutely nothing in relation to finding notable facts, but it has proven useful in riling up a base utterly convinced that net neutrality rules destroy the Internet. All on the taxpayer dime, no less.
Of course the House isn’t just trying to shame the FCC, they’re hoping to gut the agency’s budget and totally erode its authority as well. There’s only so many ways they can accomplish this, almost all of which (outside of a 2016 party shift) end in failure. The latest attempt is via language buried in the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill for fiscal 2016. According to a House news release, the bill not only strips away FCC funding, but it will prohibit the FCC from enforcing the rules (which technically take effect this Friday) until the flood of ISP lawsuits have been settled:
“The bill contains $315 million for the FCC ? a cut of $25 million below the fiscal year 2015 enacted level and $73 million below the request. The legislation prohibits the FCC from implementing net neutrality until certain court cases are resolved, requires newly proposed regulations to be made publicly available for 21 days before the Commission votes on them, and prohibits the FCC from regulating rates for either wireline or wireless Internet service.”
Obviously these lawsuits could go on for several years, and well into the term of a new Administration, one many House members hope would then strike the rules from the books. Of course much like the never-ending hearings shaming the FCC, this is largely a partisan patty cake show pony, since it won’t be signed by the President. Still, it’s very sweet of the House to be so incredibly worried about consumers and the health of the Internet that they’ll work tirelessly to protect ISPs’ god-given right to abuse the lack of last mile broadband competition.
It remains a shame that the House hasn’t yet realized yet that while they’re trying desperately to frame net neutrality as a partisan issue, Republicans and Democrats alike overwhelmingly support the concept of net neutrality. So while neutrality opponents in the House may think they’re agitating the base by attacking the FCC for standing up to ISPs, all they’re really doing is advertising the fact that they’re in the back pocket of a broadband industry data shows most consumers absolutely loathe. That’s a position that will, one way or another, be coming home to roost down the road.