The Republican Party Introduced Yet Another Measure to Kill Net Neutrality

The fight for net neutrality rages on in Congress.

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Apr 14 2015, 9:03pm

Image: ​Valerie/Flickr

​If anyone thinks that Republicans will roll over and con​cede defeat in the battle over net neutrality, they're dead wrong.

On the contrary, GOP lawmakers are laying the foundation for a fierce, multi-pronged attack against the Federal Communications Commission's new open internet rul​es, which are designed to preserve net neutrality, the principle that broadband giants shouldn't be able to pick winners and losers online.

Rep. Doug Collins, a Georgia Republican, introduced a "​resolution of disapproval" this week under the Congressio​nal Review Act that would declare that the FCC's new policy "shall have no force or effect."

Collins, who represents a rural Northeast Georgia district, said his resolution would be the fastest way to thwart "heavy-handed agency regulations that would slow internet speeds, increase consumer prices and hamper infrastructure development," according to his office.

"Resources that could go to broadband deployment will go to federal taxes and fees," said Collins, whose resolution has attracted 14 Republican co-sponsors and counting. "We'll all be paying more for less."

Collins and his colleagues face several hurdles before they can successfully cancel the FCC's new rules, which are supported by 81 percent of voters nationwide, including 81 percent of Republicans, according to a rec​ent poll conducted by Vox Populi Polling.

But for the most conservative Republican lawmakers, vocal opposition to the FCC's new policy amounts to great red meat for their core base of highly politically engaged supporters.

"Once again, some members of Congress have sided with the phone and cable lobby and against internet users"

On the one hand, these lawmakers can demonstrate their ideological opposition to what they call "federal government overreach." On the other hand, they can continue to exert reflexive opposition to any policy President Obama s​upports. Many GOP lawmakers accuse the White House of improperly influencing the FCC.

"The FCC likely forged its net neutrality solution under political pressure and will continue to attempt to grow its power in secret, despite Congress' authority in this matter," said Collins.

The Collins resolution is just one piece of the overall GOP attack. Last month, Marsha Blackburn, the Tennessee Republican, reintroduced legislation to block the FCC from implementing its new rules. Blackburn said her bill aims to "block the Obama Administration's efforts to take over the internet."

Many Republican lawmakers argue that the FCC's new rules will stifle online innovation and raise prices for consumers. Last month, the GOP subjected FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to a marathon series of hearings on Capitol Hill. At one point, Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican and vocal net neutrality opponent, accused Wheeler of "playing God with the internet."

The Congressional Review Act allows lawmakers to overrule new regulations within 60 days of their publication 

The FCC's new rules also face a fierce industry pushback in federal court. US Telecom, a national industry group, and Texas-based service provider Alamo Broadband, have already filed lawsuits calling the new rules "arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion" by the FCC.

Supporters of the FCC's new rules—including President Obama—say they're necessary to maintain an open and level internet playing field, so that the next Google, Skype, or Netflix is able to flourish.

Matt Wood, policy director at DC-based advocacy group Free Press Action Fund, accused Collins, Blackburn and their GOP allies of carrying water for powerful broadband industry interests.

"Once again, some members of Congress have sided with the phone and cable lobby and against internet users," Wood said in a statement. "But their campaign against the open internet is all bluster. Egged on by industry lobbyists, these representatives think they can fool others in Congress and beyond to believe that net neutrality threatens investment and innovation in digital networks."

The Congressional Review Act, which was passed in 1996 as part of Newt Gingrich's "Contract With America," empowers lawmakers to overrule new regulations within 60 days of their publication in the Federal Register. The FCC's new open internet rules were published yesterday.

In order to roll back new regulations, resolutions of disapproval must pass both the House and the Senate by a simple majority, without facing the threat of a 60-vote filibuster in the latter body. President Obama would then have to sign the resolution, which is unlikely given his strong support for net neutrality, but Congress could overrule his veto by a two-thirds vote.

In other words, even if Collins is able to build a majority in the House, his resolution still faces an uphill battle. It's worth noting that lawmakers pushed a similar resolution of disapproval in 2011, opposing the FCC's previous net neutrality regulations, but that resolution did not succeed. Those FCC rules would ultimately be struck down in federal court.

The FCC declined to comment on the political and legal challenges it faces, but late last month, Wheeler, who championed the new rules, predicted that they would survive the latest round of legal attacks.

"The FCC's new rules will be upheld by the courts," he declared. "When that happens, the big winners will be America's consumers and innovators and our economy as a whole."