House Republicans Look To Curb FCC’s Authority To Enforce Net Neutrality

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A bill introduced late yesterday in the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives would “limit” the Federal Communications Commission’s ability to regulate the Internet under Title II, according to its progenitor, Rep. Bob Latta.

Title II, of course, refers to part of the Communications Act. If the FCC did push for such a regulatory structure, it would have more authority over the Internet and its constituent players. Those opposed to net neutrality — the general idyll that all content on the Internet should be treated equally — are stringently against Title II regulation as a proposal. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has considered that a different legal standing altogether be used to enforce net neutrality.

The Chairman’s plans, however, leave open agreements between content companies and Internet service providers (ISPs) that many worry would tilt the Web in favor of monied parties.

Why does Rep. Latta want to ensure that Title II regulation is verboten? According to his statement, the congressman is concerned about protecting market stability so ISPs can continue to invest in their businesses:

My legislation will provide all participants in the Internet ecosystem the certainty they need to continue investing in broadband networks and services that have been fundamental for job creation, productivity and consumer choice. [...]

Reclassification would heap 80 years of regulatory baggage on broadband providers, restricting their flexibility to innovate and placing them at the mercy of a government agency. These businesses thrive on dynamism and the ability to evolve quickly to shifting market and consumer forces. Subjecting them to bureaucratic red tape won’t promote innovation, consumer welfare or the economy, and I encourage my House colleagues to support this legislation, so we can foster continued innovation and investment within the broadband marketplace

The issue at hand is that many participants in the larger “Internet ecosystem” are vehemently opposed to any sort of watering down of net neutrality, those detractors instead declaring that its strict enforcement is critical to continued innovation and investment.

I’ve reached out to the congressman’s office regarding his comments, as they deal more specifically with the concerns of ISPs than Internet firms. [Update: Rep. Latta’s office responded to TechCrunch’s request for comment by indicating that changing the “regulatory structure” as per FCC proposal is the “real threat” for “all” participants of the Internet ecosystem.]

As you might expect, companies that would fall under the purview of Title II regulation if enforced are in favor of the bill. As The Hill reports:

The cable industry threw its weight behind Latta’s bill.

In a statement, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association — which represents companies including Comcast, Cablevision, Charter Communications and Time Warner Cable — praised the bill for codifying “current policy and to ensure that the Internet continues to grow and remains open and free from the burdens of outdated, public utility regulation.”

Surprise.

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