Hill Hails, Pans Title II

Reaction to FCC Vote Swift, Politically Divided

The response was immediate and voluminous from the Hill Thursday (Feb. 26) to the Federal Communications Commission's vote to reclassify both fixed and mobile broadband as a telecommunications service under some Title II regulations.

“This is a an enormous victory,” said Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.). “This is the culmination of years of hard work by countless Americans who believe — just as I do — that the Internet should remain the free and open platform that it’s always been. Net neutrality is important for consumers, for small businesses and startups trying to compete with the big guys, and ultimately, for the innovation that has helped drive our economy for the past several decades.

“The bottom line is this: the Internet is a vital part of our daily lives, and net neutrality is at the core of how the Internet operates," Franken added. "It is critical to our democracy and our economy that it continue to operate this way."

A Republican senator from nearby Wisconsin had a different take.

“Today’s disastrous decision by three unelected bureaucrats at the FCC to regulate broadband services like a public utility speaks more about how broken Washington is than about any need for onerous regulations on the Internet," said Sen Ron Johnson.

“Since the Clinton administration, the FCC has wisely applied a light regulatory touch to broadband services, resulting in a highly successful broadband industry. ," Johnson continued. "The FCC reverses that bipartisan policy decision after consulting with outside interests rather than Congress. The complete lack of transparency and refusal to submit to any congressional oversight is corrupting, and consumers of the Internet will ultimately pay for this travesty with higher costs and slower service.”

The comments pretty much broke along political lines.

“Today is a historic day for the Internet Age," said Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), a member of the House Communications Subcommittee. "After a record four million public comments and months of debate, the FCC has passed strong net-neutrality rules that will protect consumers, small businesses, and encourage innovation. I am pleased that the rules ensure that so-called paid prioritization schemes never see the light of day in our economy. Americans will not experience Internet slow lanes or gatekeepers hindering traffic.  Small businesses, startups, libraries, and hospitals will not be forced to cut special paid agreements simply to provide their content or service online."

“With the absolute ban on paid prioritization, the rules adopted today by the FCC will ensure that all data is treated equally – a cornerstone principle of the Internet,” Matsui said. "The next Google or Amazon, the kid in the garage or dorm room that has a good idea but little capital, will succeed based on the strength of their ideas, not whether they can pay for prioritized service online."

The Republican members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee responded in a joint statement: “Resorting to Great Depression-era rules will trigger a stampede to the courts, unleashing years of lawsuits and uncertainty at a time when U.S. leadership and the Internet economy are more important than ever. We believe the Internet has worked well under current rules, but we were – and we remain – willing to come to the table with legislation to answer the calls for legally sustainable consumer protections for the free and open Internet that has fostered a generation of innovation, economic growth, and global empowerment.

“Republicans, Democrats, consumer groups, and investors all agree that we need sustainable protections to preserve the Internet as we know it," the statement continued. "A 3-2 party-line vote is not the policy consensus this issue deserves. Consumers, investment in state-of-the-art networks, and job creation all stand to lose from today’s heavy-handed decision. And transparency has all but evaporated during this broken process. Once these rules finally emerge from the shadows, it will become clear that the FCC’s action today does not end the debate.”

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) said the ruling would not stand the test of time. "Years from now, I do not believe history will look back fondly at the definitive moment of Mr. Wheeler’s chairmanship of the FCC," Heller said. "Today, under his leadership, the Commission ended over 20 years of bipartisan consensus. With today’s partisan 3-2 vote, the days of leaving the Internet free of government regulation are gone.  

“The rules, hidden from public view until after passage, are borne not from demonstrated market failures but, rather, from perceived concerns originally raised by special interest organizations and candidates, like then-Senator Obama in 2008, fundraising off the net neutrality issue," he added. "Now, all Americans will be subject to an Internet rule structure modeled over 80 years ago to address a monopoly in the telephone marketplace. Instead of looking to the future for ways to ensure robust competition in the Internet marketplace, this chairman prefers to look back to a time when President Franklin Roosevelt occupied the White House. "