Senate Republicans Go After Net Neutrality Regulations

May 3, 2017 - 3 minutes read

Last Wednesday Dogtown Media had the exciting opportunity to meet with officials at the FCC headquarters along with other members of ACT – The App Association. During that meeting, Dogtown lobbied for issues that matter to the IoT app developer community, including opening up spectrum, paving the way for 5G, and clarifying the FCC’s privacy rules. It was a productive meeting, but on the same day, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai offered up his “Restoring Internet Freedom” plan, confirming his dedication to dismantling net neutrality. The day was a frustrating reminder that political progress is a long, uphill battle, with setbacks for every potential advance — and also a reminder of why it’s necessary to keep fighting.

This week the attack on net neutrality enters its next phase as nine Senate Republicans submitted the “Restoring Internet Freedom Act.” Sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), with co-sponsors including former presidential hopefuls Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY), the law would prevent the FCC from classifying ISPs as common carriers and would strip away the right to regulate telecommunications companies. It would also keep the FCC from issuing another rule like the Open Internet Order. If this bill looks familiar to app developers, it’s because it seems to be the same as the “Restoring Internet Freedom Act” legislation introduced last year.

What the Republicans want here is a little baffling. Cruz has called net neutrality “Obamacare for the internet,” a truly head-scratching analogy that only succeeds in riling up his low-information base. They have pitched the bill as a way to keep bureaucrats out of the internet, which may sound good on paper, but in practice involves opening up the internet to paid-for “fast lanes,” content blocking, and other practices that are good for ISPs and bad for consumers. Craig Aaron, CEO of Free Press Action Fund, breaks down the Republicans motives in plain language: “This is a good moment to take note of who’s standing up for the public and who’s auditioning to be a Comcast lobbyist.”

Unlike much of the deregulating done so far in the Trump era, including the controversial rollback of privacy protections for broadband users, the “Restoring Internet Freedom Act” seeks to undo a law (the Open Internet Order) that was established two years ago. This means that its no longer subject to a quick change and that Sen. Lee’s legislation will require a 60 vote majority in the Senate to pass, which seems unlikely. However, that doesn’t mean iPhone app developers can breathe easy. Chairman Pai’s campaign to deregulate the telecommunications companies will be enough for now to destroy the open internet as we know it. But the passionate tech community will continue to fight and to find new ways to take on the established order.

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