Lawmakers Mount Net Neutrality Fight

Legislators on both sides of the aisle say they plan to fight the rollback of Obama-era net neutrality protections.

by Brian Molongoski, Watertown Daily Times / December 18, 2017

(TNS) — As the political fallout from the Federal Communications Commission’s vote to roll back net neutrality continues, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say they plan to fight the decision so broadband regulations are reinstated.

On Thursday, the FCC Board voted to end net neutrality, a regulation that kept broadband companies from charging users for specific services and content via the web. The FCC board argued that the repeal was necessary in order to give companies more flexibility in the service options they can provide consumers.

The repeal of net neutrality rules will not go into effect until next year. But Democratic lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., have announced plans to overturn the FCC’s decision.

Sen. Schumer said he would support a Congressional Review Act resolution that would rescind the FCC order and restore the Open Internet Order.

“With the disastrous repeal of Net Neutrality rules, the internet may start to resemble a toll road, with the highest bidders cruising along private ‘fast lanes’ while the rest of us inch along a single, traffic-choked public lane; and we could be forced to purchase internet packages much like cable packages, paying more for popular sites,” Sen. Schumer said.

U.S. Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, while not directly opposed to the FCC’s decision, called for legislation that maintains the open internet access afforded under net neutrality, noting the challenges the north country faces when it comes to internet access.

“Families in our district have very few choices in internet service providers, which is why it is critical for Congress to now pass legislation to protect the north country’s access to online information,” Ms. Stefanik, R-Willsboro, said in a statement. “Congress should begin holding hearings with internet service providers and web companies and begin the process of drafting this legislation. I will be engaging with my colleagues on the path forward and will continue to work to preserve an open, accessible internet.”

The New York Times reported that Republicans have long lobbied for the FCC to lift net neutrality because internet companies are struggling to expand and upgrade at a faster pace.

Charter Communications released a statement Thursday saying it supports the FCC’s decision because, without the potential for rate regulation, it can make larger investments into expansion.

“These infrastructure investments are critical to our ability to innovate and improve our broadband service and deploy it to parts of the country that are harder and more expensive to serve, like rural communities,” Charter officials said, adding that they will also support congressional legislation to preserve an open internet.

Watertown-based internet provider Westelcom has not returned requests for comment.

New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said he plans to sue the FCC over the decision.

“The FCC’s vote to rip apart net neutrality is a blow to New York consumers, and to everyone who cares about a free and open internet. The FCC just gave Big Telecom an early Christmas present, by giving internet service providers yet another way to put corporate profits over consumers,” he said.

©2017 Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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