The FCC’s controversial decision last December to eliminate regulations aimed at preserving net neutrality has been followed by a flurry of legislative action at the state and federal level.
The latest salvo is a bill introduced by Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), which is a companion to a House bill introduced by Republican Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. As tech giants, activists and Democrats alike all rail against the FCC’s decision, which they say will pave the way for internet “fast lanes” and gates and tolls being set up around online content, lawmakers are taking action.
While opponents say the new stance will unfairly tilt the balance of power toward gatekeepers like major broadband providers such as Comcast or AT&T, those in favor of the FCC move say exactly the opposite. They say innovation and free enterprise is stifled by too much regulation.
For Republicans, the effort has been aimed at codifying many of the principles espoused by the FCC, but in a manner likely to last longer than the vote of a five-member regulatory commission. The winds have often shifted at the FCC as it passes from Republican to Democratic control over the years, frustrating many companies and lobbyists looking for more permanent regulatory vision.
Activists immediately pounced on Kennedy’s bill. “Louisiana residents, small businesses, and Internet users from across the political spectrum asked Senator Kennedy to be a hero,” the grassroots group Fight the Future said in a statement. “Instead, he stabbed them in the back.”
The Congressional action comes as some states begin to take the initiative. Washington state this week signed its own net neutrality bill into law, with legislatures in Maryland, Connecticut and California all debating their own bills. Governors of other states, including New York, have talked about countering the FCC’s move with executive orders aimed at preserving net neutrality.
Courts offer another venue for those opposed to the FCC action. A range of tech companies have filed lawsuits seeking to reverse the commission’s repeal. On Monday, a suit was filed by six companies, among them Etsy, Foursquare and Kickstarter.
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