Legislators were familiarly split along party lines by the FCC's vote Thursday to launch a rulemaking to roll back classification of ISPs as common carriers subject to access and, potentially, rate regs.
Democrats had been pushing back hard against the vote, saying it should be delayed or abandoned, while Republicans have praised FCC chairman Ajit Pai for wanting to review the 2015 Open Internet rules and reverse Title II.
The issue may wind up in the Congress anyway, where Pai has said he would be glad to get some clarity about the FCC's broadband regulatory authority. But in the meantime the legislators weighed in on the FCC's move.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) took to the Senate floor Thursday morning to praise the vote.
He said the wonders of the internet did not grow out of regulation and bureaucracy but of a "bipartisan consensus" that there should be a "light regulatory touch."
He said that changed under the Obama Administration, when the internet was regulated under "antiquated" "rotary phone" regs.
"We finally have an FCC chairman who recognizes that we live in an entirely new era," he said, pointing to Thursday's vote and including Republican commissioner Michael O'Rielly in his shout-out for the vote, which he called "the first, necessary step to address a deeply flawed Obama era dictate."
He said he wanted to commend Pai for taking that "preliminary step," which he also said would "open the door to bipartisan congressional action."
“Today the FCC took an important step to roll back the Obama administration’s efforts to subject the internet to heavy-handed government regulation," said House Communications Subcommittee chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.).
"Now the public has the opportunity to weigh in on the FCC’s proposed rule before the FCC begins to draft their final order,” said Blackburn. “I remain hopeful that Republicans and Democrats, internet service providers, edge providers and the internet community as a whole can come together and work towards a solution. I thank Chairman Pai and Commissioner O’Reilly for their leadership to begin rolling back this Depression-era, utility-style regulatory structure for the internet.”
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), ranking member of the Communications Subcommittee, saw it much differently.
“While Chairman Pai seems to have made his decision to get rid of these rules before starting the proceedings in earnest, he has an obligation to keep an open mind in this process, and take seriously the comments from the public. I plan to hold him to that obligation—to make sure that the people who weigh in are heard, as they should be.
“This fight is just starting. Just like in 2014, the public now has the opportunity to stand up, be heard, and influence the outcome. It will take millions people standing up, just like they did before, to say that the internet needs to stay free and open. That’s what it will take to win.”
Energy and Commerce ranking member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) was on the same page.
“Today, President Trump’s FCC took the first step to dismantle net neutrality," he said. "This action will undermine the free and open internet and hand its control over to a few powerful corporate interests. So far, more than two million comments have been filed with the FCC, but the agency seems to be covering its ears and moving forward with this misguided approach. That leaves the American people with only one option: get louder.”
“Today, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai began the wrecking process to overturn net neutrality, demonstrating that he is on the wrong side of history, consumers and the public interest," said Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), former ranking of the House Communications Subcommittee. "The approval of the NPRM at the FCC begins the process to remove rules that advance competition, innovation, small businesses and entrepreneurs. This reversal will benefit the interests of the largest Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and is a significant loss for consumers.
“Three years ago, The American people spoke loudly and clearly in support of rules to protect free speech and online commerce from the powerful grip of corporate gatekeepers. As the public comment process begins, the American people again have the opportunity to make their voices heard.”
“Make no mistake: the FCC just took a major step toward destroying the internet as we know it, putting the interests of a handful of giant corporations like Comcast and Verizon ahead of the American people,” said Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.).
“For as long as the internet has existed, it's been grounded on the principle of net neutrality—meaning what you read, see, or watch on the internet shouldn't be favored, blocked, or slowed down based on where that content is coming from. Net neutrality allows Minnesota’s small businesses to compete with the big guys, it drives innovation by putting entrepreneurs on the same playing field with large companies, and it protects Americans’ free speech. The truth is there's no good reason to get rid of strong net neutrality protections, unless you want to give giant companies the power to shake-down consumers and small businesses even more by establishing fast and slow lanes. This is a terrible idea, and it’s never been more important for us mobilize and fight back to stop the FCC—and the large corporations who are behind this attack—from destroying the free and open internet that all Americans deserve.”
“Instead of preserving a free and open internet, Chairman Pai and the Trump FCC are taking steps to restrict innovation, economic growth and democratic expression by voting to roll back net neutrality rules," said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), one of the strongest voices for Title II-based regs.
“This attack on net neutrality is just one piece of the Republicans’ effort to dismantle the basic protections safeguarding American families. Instead of protecting our privacy, our health care, our environment, or our access to a free and open internet, the Republicans want to hand that power over to big corporations that don’t care about consumers’ rights. These companies have only one concern – their bottom line.
“More than one million comments have already been submitted to the FCC, and the movement to defend net neutrality will not stop. I will continue to oppose any regulatory efforts by Chairman Pai to undo or roll back the Open Internet Order. And I will oppose any legislative efforts that weaken or undermine the Open Internet Order.”
“Today, the Trump FCC began a process to dismantle the rules that protect and enable the Internet as we know it. This action is profoundly anti-competitive, anti-innovation, and anti-consumer," said Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), ranking member of the House Communications Subcommittee. "Already, 2.1 million comments have been filed overwhelming opposing eliminating these rules.
“Three years ago, 3.7 million people and a broad array of startups, internet companies, and stakeholders called on the FCC to put in place enforceable rules to protect the innovation economy. They did and those open internet rules have worked.”
“I am opposed to what the FCC is doing in gutting its net neutrality rules. If you use and enjoy Amazon, Netflix, Etsy, Snap, or so many other innovative services online, you benefit from these rules. I for one enjoy and want an open Internet that gives me a broad range of choices - and promotes new competitive and innovative services - and I will continue to fight to achieve that end.”