Inside Towers

GOP Senators Oppose Proposed FCC Net Neutrality Rules

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

UPDATE A majority of Republican Senators oppose the proposed FCC net neutrality rules. The 42 lawmakers, led by John Thune of South Dakota and Ted Cruz of Texas, say reinstating the public utility regulations of Title II of the Communications Act on the internet would be “heavy handed.”

The proposed rules are largely similar to the rules adopted by the FCC in 2015, which reclassified broadband from Title I to Title II, Inside Towers reported. They call the growth of the internet an American success story.  

“Broadband investment has increased, deployment has increased, speeds have increased, and high-speed internet access has become more affordable than ever,” the senators wrote in a letter to FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, who announced her plans the day after the agency’s third Democratic Commissioner, Anna Gomez, was confirmed by the Senate.

“American networks, freed from obtrusive regulations, easily handled the surge in demand during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the senators wrote. They contrasted our country’s experience with that of Europe during the COVID-19 pandemic, when “Europe’s heavily regulated internet providers were forced to actively slow down speeds to maintain connectivity.” The lawmakers note that the U.S. is now a leader “in adopting next-generation telecommunications services like 5G and WiFi 6e while Europe struggles to keep pace.”

“We urge you to end this charade and shelve this fifth attempt to adopt so-called ‘net neutrality’ regulations,” the senators concluded.

In response, the FCC reiterated what Rosenworcel has said are the public safety and national security benefits of basically restoring the rules that were lifted by Ajit Pai’s FCC in the previous administration. Currently, no federal agency can effectively monitor or address broadband outages that threaten jobs, education, and public safety, says the agency. While the FCC has acted on a bipartisan basis to secure America’s communications networks “against companies controlled by hostile foreign governments, the lack of specific authority over broadband leaves open a national security loophole,” notes the Commission. 

The Commission says reclassifying internet access as a Title II service would enable the agency to close the loophole. It would also “allow the FCC to require broadband providers to report and address internet outages, like the FCC does for voice service today, and ensure that response personnel know when service is impacted, especially during emergencies,” states the agency.

The senators also said the FCC lacks authority over broadband internet access and any attempt to reinstate net neutrality regulations and the Title II reclassification on ISPs won’t survive judicial review.

The Commission disagrees, noting in a fact sheet, “In its remand of the FCC’s decision to roll back net neutrality, the D.C. Circuit Court found the agency’s disregard of its duty to analyze the impact of the public safety renders its decision arbitrary and capricious.”

Additional letter cosigners include U.S. Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Tim Scott (R-SC), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), John Barrasso (R-WY), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Rick Scott (R-FL), John Hoeven (R-ND), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Eric Schmitt (R-MO), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Mitch McConnell (R-KY),  Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), John Cornyn (R-TX), Katie Britt (R-AL), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Steve Daines (R-MT), Ted Budd (R-NC), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Mike Lee (R-UT),  James Risch (R-ID), Todd Young (R-IN), James Lankford (R-OK), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), John Boozman (R-AR), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Pete Ricketts (R-NE), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Marco Rubio (R-FL).