BOSTON - Even as the House voted to repeal federal Internet access rules Friday, top Democratic policymakers called free and open communications a vital part of American democracy.
Speaking at Free Press’s National Conference for Media Reform, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she was pleased by Democratic opposition to the GOP-backed resolution, which cleared the House Friday afternoon. The resolution would nullify Federal Communications Commission net neutrality regulations that aim to prevent Internet service providers from blocking certain websites.
“No one should be guarding the gate on the Internet,” Pelosi said. She said despite the House vote, the resolution isn’t likely to gain support in the Senate. “I don’t think this bill is going anyplace,” Pelosi predicted.
Critics of the regulations say they unnecessarily interfere in the private market. Republicans who sponsored the House legislation argued that the FCC overstepped its authority to enact rules that aren't needed.
Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps, who voted to enact the rules in December but advocated for more stringent measures, said net neutrality is one of many communications principles that must be protected.
Free access to information and communication “is not just about entertainment,” Copps told the conference. “It goes to the heart of the future of Democracy.”
He called for more regulations based on the public interest, including an “honest-to-God licensing system” to ensure that broadcasters are filling the public need.
Fellow Democratic FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn agreed that the public must be “very vigilant” in protecting free and open communication networks, especially as more and more people move beyond simply enjoying wireless technology, to fully depending on it.