Nancy Pelosi Joins Effort To Reclassify The Internet For Net Neutrality Regulation

The House Minority Leader is the highest ranking Democratic lawmaker to side with activists who want FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to support what some call the Net Neutrality “nuclear option” — reclassifying the Internet as a regulated phone-like communications service. It’s currently deemed a lightly regulated information service. But Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.) says today in a letter to Wheeler that without reclassification ISPs could “discriminate against the content consumers and innovators create and enjoy.” She specifically opposes “special Internet fast lanes, only open to those firms large enough to pay big money or fraught enough to give up big stakes in their company.”

Net Neutrality supporters became upset with Wheeler this spring when he decided to work with the current classification system to try and revive FCC open Internet rules that the U.S. Court of Appeals remanded in January. Justices said that the FCC had overstepped its authority as long as it classifies the Internet as an information service. Wheeler didn’t rule out reclassification, but his proposed rules — which his two fellow Democrats on the five-member commission also supported — would allow ISPs to play favorites under some circumstances. Wheeler said that sticking with the current system would enable the FCC to move quickly. President Obama has not addressed the subject directly, although he favors open Internet. Cable and phone companies strongly opposed reclassification, saying that it would frighten the investors needed to further improve Web services.

Pelosi counters that “Innovators prefer bright-line rules and worry the [FCC’s] proposed rules would force them into commercial arrangements that require payment of tolls in cash or equity to get their ideas on the Internet.” A fundamental change would also clearly give the FCC the authority to “protect consumers from fraudulent billing practices and privacy infringements while maintaining the guarantee that Voice-over-Internet Protocol calls and other data will reach their destination without interference.”

In May, House GOP leaders including Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) urged Wheeler to “halt your consideration of any plan to impose antiquated regulation on the Internet” saying that it would “needlessly inhibit the creation of American private sector jobs, limit economic freedom and innovation, and threaten to derail one of our economy’s most vibrant sectors.”

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