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E&C Republicans Caution Rosenworcel on Rolling Back Internet Service Protections for Americans


04.16.21

Washington, D.C. — Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans, led by Committee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Republican Leader Bob Lattasent a letter today urging Acting Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Rosenworcel not to impose stringent net neutrality regulations, which could result in Americans losing their internet offerings. 

Excerpts from the letter to Acting FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel: 

The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of being able to access the Internet anywhere, anytime. The Internet is a vital resource, and Americans rely on it daily to work, learn, receive health care, and stay connected to family and friends. Our nation’s broadband providers responded to this pandemic by improving their networks and offering free or reduced priced services for consumers, and we urge you not to impose stringent net neutrality regulations that may result in Americans losing their internet services. 

[…] 

Unfortunately, we are beginning to see the negative effects that burdensome utility-style regulations would have on American consumers. Recently, the Department of Justice formally dismissed its lawsuit filed against California in 2018 for passing strict net neutrality regulations. You applauded the move stating, “[w]hen the FCC, over my objection, rolled back its net neutrality policies, states like California sought to fill the void with their own laws.” There was no void to fill, as oversight by the FTC, DOJ, and state attorneys general ensured that ISPs would fulfill their promises not to block or throttle traffic or otherwise engage in anticompetitive conduct. Yet instead of leaving strong consumer protections on the books, early results suggest that California has bungled its attempt to fill the void. 

 Almost immediately after California enforced this law, two Internet providers reportedly told the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that the law could force them to end arrangements with U.S. wireless carriers that enable veterans to access a free, mobile telehealth app called VA Video Connect.  In particular, the CA law declares unlawful the zero-rating of Internet applications under certain circumstances. What those circumstances are, however, is far from clear under the law – which nonetheless threatens violators with state AG enforcement, private rights of action and potential fines. 

[..] 

We can all agree that harmful practices such as blocking, throttling, and anticompetitive behavior should not be permitted. But we can achieve this without heavy-handed overregulation. We must avoid state-by-state regulation as well, which would increase burdens and introduce inconsistencies that ultimately would jeopardize further investment and innovation, and in turn harm consumers. Our current regulatory environment was proven successful as our broadband networks excelled under unprecedented pressure during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

We urge you to avoid the same mistakes made by California and the 2015 Commission. If the Commission chooses to amend the strong consumer protections already in place, we believe that the heavy hand of overregulation will have far reaching and adverse consequences for consumer access, consumer prices, and competition. 

CLICK HERE to see the full letter. 

Letter