Every few generations, this nation’s innovators develop truly monumental products or services. Such innovations provide us all with a better quality of life and millions of jobs. However, while a solid legal structure of consumer protections were built around other innovative technologies, we cannot yet say the same for the most impactful innovation of the last 25 years — the internet.
Back in 2005, the Republican-controlled FCC unanimously voted to support former chairman Michael Powell’s “four internet freedoms.” These four items broadly supported competition and the freedom of consumers to access all lawful online content. However, since that vote, the FCC has taken increasingly controversial, policy-shifting votes — most recently in December of 2017, when the commission completely overturned “net neutrality” protections put in place just two years prior.
Due to these dramatic shifts in policy, it is clear to me that consumers cannot count on the FCC to provide them with basic protections when it comes to their internet service. This must change. The internet is indispensable to our everyday lives and Congress needs to end the confusion at the FCC by establishing clear, bright-line rules that are not subject to the whims of unelected bureaucrats.
I recently introduced a bill that would enshrine net-neutrality principles into law so neither this FCC nor any future commission can alter them. The provisions of my bill will ensure that consumers can access all online content free from blocking or throttling by their ISP. Further, ISPs may not engage in the market-distorting-practice of paid prioritization. These arrangements only advantage large businesses with the resources to edge out smaller rivals or those seeking to enter the online marketplace. Such a setup goes against one of the founding principles of the internet — that it be free and open to all.
Due to the importance of net neutrality, I believe we need to pursue all options available to us. To that end, I also added my name to the discharge petition that will bring to the House floor a resolution that will overturn the 2017 actions of the FCC. This Congressional Review Act (CRA) measure has already passed the Senate by a bipartisan vote and it is time for the House to have an up-or-down vote on restoring these essential consumer protections. Doing so will allow Congress to take an “all of the above” strategy in defending our internet freedoms and a competitive online marketplace.
Congress can no longer defer to the FCC, and I am proud to lead the charge in supporting consumers, small-business owners, Main Street businesses, tech startups and edge providers by establishing an “Internet Constitution” we all can rely on. The internet is just too important. I invite you to join me in this effort.
U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman represents Colorado’s 6th Congressional District.