by Nicole Daley, Policy Intern
The internet is the channel used to keep an open flow of communication between artists and their audiences worldwide. For musicians, access to a level playing field online is crucial for both free expression and making a living. They can’t afford to get stuck in the slow lane because they don’t have the right deals with corporate partner. That’s why so many musicians fought hard for strong Net Neutrality protections, joining with civil rights groups, consumer advocates and media activists, and it’s the reason they pledged to defend the FCC against attacks on these protections.
But some in Congress take a different view. On Friday morning, the House will vote on another misguided attempt to roll back the net neutrality rules adopted by the FCC in February of 2015.
Supporters of the No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act claim it will simply prohibit the Federal Communications Commission from regulating the rates charged for broadband Internet access service. But this is a solution in search of a problem. When the FCC reclassified broadband as a common carrier service in order to impose net neutrality rules, the commission did not set rates that telecommunications providers would be required to follow. However, to protect consumers the FCC put in place a system in which customers can file complaints about pricing and following a complaint the FCC would judge on a case-by-case basis whether a price or pricing practice is “unjust” or “unreasonable.” Although, Chairman Tom Wheeler has repeatedly emphasized that the Open Internet Order is not about regulating rates, some in Congress seem to oppose any constraints on ISP’s ability to gouge consumers. As a result, this bill seeks to limit the FCC’s power and blocking even future FCC chairs from taking the initiative to ensure telecommunications providers do not follow a practice of setting unreasonable rates.
This bill may pass the House along partisan lines. But it’s unlikely to go any further than that. There is no companion bill in the Senate, and the president has promised to veto it. President Obama has remained steadfast in his support of net neutrality principles, and the White House has publicly agreed with Chairman Wheeler that the bill would prevent the FCC from being able to do their job.
So why is Congress wasting time on this bill that everyone knows will go nowhere? Unfortunately, it seems to be another symbol of election year dysfunction in Washington. As with the apparently endless parade of meaningless votes to repeal Obamacare, the latest anti-Net Neutrality seems to be a strange use of time and taxpayer resources–especially when there are so many substantive issues on the table in need of legislative attention.
Meanwhile, a court ruling is expected very soon on the challenges brought to the Open Internet Order by internet service providers who want the new rules thrown out. These court challenges were expected, and part of the point of the FCC’s new rules is that they’ll be strong enough to stand up in court. We’ll be watching closely
Image via Shutterstock.