Lawmakers to FCC: stop mulling net neutrality reclassification

Some Republican House members question the need for the FCC to move forward with any net neutrality rules

Republican legislators don't even want the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to think about reclassifying broadband as a utility -- a route the regulator could take in order to reinstate net neutrality rules.

New regulations would hurt broadband deployment, several Republican members of the House of Representatives said.

Several Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee called on FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to drop all efforts to reinstate net neutrality rules, including his proposal that would not rely on regulating broadband as a common-carrier utility service.

Net neutrality rules would be "nothing more than a price control" for broadband, Representative Mike Pompeo, a Kansas Republican, said to Wheeler during a Tuesday hearing. "It's a very dangerous path that you're headed down."

Other Republicans focused most of their ire on calls by some Internet users and digital rights groups to reclassify broadband under traditional common-carrier telecom regulations in Title II of the Telecommunications Act after a U.S. appeals court threw out the FCC's old net neutrality rules in January.

The FCC's net neutrality notice, released last week, "tees up the long-dead idea that the Internet is a common carrier," said Representative Greg Walden, an Oregon Republican and chairman of the committee's communications subcommittee.

Common-carrier regulations were focused on a monopoly telecom carrier and "harken back to a world in which twisted copper was the only portal for consumers to the communications network and voice was the only service," Walden added.

Advocates of Title II reclassification say it would put the FCC on a solid regulatory footing for prohibiting broadband providers from selectively slowing Web content or charging Web content producers for prioritized traffic. Some advocates of strong net neutrality rules, including digital rights groups Free Press and Public Knowledge and members of Reddit, have criticized Wheeler's alternative approach that would allow broadband providers to engage in "commercially reasonable" traffic management.

Representative Bob Latta, an Ohio Republican, said he plans to introduce legislation that would prohibit the FCC from reclassifying broadband under Title II.

Wheeler defended the FCC notice, saying it merely asks for public input on the best way to reinstate net neutrality rules after the appeals court ruling in January. His approach, he said, would follow a "roadmap" laid out by the court opinion that would allow net neutrality rules under a section of the Telecom Act that encourages broadband deployment, instead of reclassifying.

The current debate over how to enforce net neutrality rules is "very healthy," Wheeler said. "There are two diametrically opposed positions. One is, you should not do anything, and the other is, it should go all the way to be regulated like a public utility."

While Wheeler's proposal doesn't ban outright paid priority business models, last week's notice asks whether it should, and Wheeler's FCC would consider most such arrangements to be unreasonable business practices, he said. Broadband subscribers should have access to all the bandwidth they pay for, he said.

"There is only one Internet," he said. "There is not a fast lane and a slow lane."

Subcommittee Democrats encouraged Wheeler to pass new net neutrality rules, but some appeared to be skeptical of reclassifying broadband as a utility. The FCC should prohibit broadband providers from selectively blocking Web content, and paid priority plans represent a "fundamental departure from the Internet as we know it," said Representative Anna Eshoo, a California Democrat.

But moving to Title II could make room for "heavy-handed regulation," Eshoo added. "I think that we need a light, but strengthful, touch in this," she said.

Representative Henry Waxman, another California Democrat, called on the FCC to use Section 706, the broadband deployment section of the Telecom Act, to pass net neutrality rules, but also rely on Title II common-carrier rules as a "backstop" to ban any paid prioritization of Web content by broadband providers.

"You don't have to settle for weak open Internet rules, if you exercise your full powers," Waxman said.

While the FCC notice asks when and if the agency should allow any paid prioritization, "this will create a lot of ambiguity and a lot of litigation," he said. "Bright lines would be much better for the market and for innovation."

But Representative Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, suggested paid-for-priority plans would have some merit.

"What people are trying to do is [say], 'I want to pay a minimal price and get all this broadband, and I want to download everything from Netflix, and I don't want to pay if I download everything they rent,'" he said. "The broadband providers, who have spent billions and billions of dollars and who have networked this country ... may want to provide, based on volume of use, some kind of pricing system,"

Net neutrality rules wouldn't prevent broadband providers from charging subscribers higher prices for a faster connection, Wheeler said. "The concept of the open Internet is I have bought this broad pathway, and I have the right to use it unfettered," he said.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags governmentbroadbandregulationinternettelecommunicationnet neutralityfree pressredditInternet service providersU.S. Federal Communications CommissionPublic KnowledgeU.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia CircuitHenry WaxmanU.S. House of RepresentativesJoe BartonGreg WaldenTom WheelerMike PompeoAnna EschooBob Latta

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Bitdefender 2019

This Holiday Season, protect yourself and your loved ones with the best. Buy now for Holiday Savings!

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill


I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?