Republicans Will Try to Kill New Net-Neutrality Rules

A showdown looms as the FCC announces bid to revive regulations recently struck down in federal court.

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 28: U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) speaks during the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 28, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Today is the first full session of the RNC after the start was delayed due to Tropical Storm Isaac. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
National Journal
Laura Ryan
Feb. 19, 2014, 12:29 p.m.

Re­pub­lic­ans are not happy about the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s plan to re­write net-neut­ral­ity rules aimed at en­sur­ing free and equal ac­cess to the In­ter­net and will in­tro­duce a bill soon to block the ef­fort.

The Fed­er­al Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sion an­nounced Wed­nes­day that it plans to re­in­state rules that would re­strict In­ter­net pro­viders from block­ing web­sites or char­ging sites like Net­flix an ex­tra fee for faster ser­vice. The an­nounce­ment comes one month after a fed­er­al court struck down the com­mis­sion’s net-neut­ral­ity rules but up­held its au­thor­ity to reg­u­late the In­ter­net.

Top Re­pub­lic­ans called the FCC’s ef­forts to re­vive net-neut­ral­ity rules “a solu­tion in search of a prob­lem,” and plan to fight any new rules. Rep. Mar­sha Black­burn of Ten­ness­ee will in­tro­duce le­gis­la­tion in the com­ing weeks to block what she calls the “so­cial­ist­ic” pro­pos­al.

“Fed­er­al con­trol of the In­ter­net will re­strict our on­line free­dom and leave Amer­ic­ans fa­cing the same hor­rors that they have ex­per­i­enced with Health­Care.gov,” Black­burn said in a state­ment.

Black­burn’s bill will likely be more sym­bol­ic than sub­stant­ive, as was a bill in­tro­duced by Demo­crats in early Feb­ru­ary aimed at restor­ing net-neut­ral­ity rules. The Re­pub­lic­an bill would not pass in the Sen­ate, while the Demo­crat­ic bill would nev­er make it through the House. Rep. Anna Eshoo, au­thor of the Demo­crats’ bill, re­cently ad­mit­ted the bill had no chance of passing.

The ef­fort also leaves the FCC sharply di­vided, with both Re­pub­lic­an com­mis­sion­ers op­pos­ing the plan.

“Today’s an­nounce­ment re­minds me of the movie Ground­hog Day,” Com­mis­sion­er Ajit Pai said in a state­ment. “I am skep­tic­al that this ef­fort will end any dif­fer­ently from the last.”

Re­pub­lic­ans have long said net-neut­ral­ity reg­u­la­tion stifles in­nov­a­tion and over­steps the FCC’s leg­al au­thor­ity. Demo­crats wel­comed the FCC an­nounce­ment as an im­port­ant step to pro­tect­ing a “free and open In­ter­net.”

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