New Bill Seeks to Rein in FCC Regulatory Authority

Published May 31, 2016

Recent attempts to regulate the Internet by the Federal Communications Commission have prompted Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) to introduce the Freedom for Consumer Choice Act. Cosponsored by Sen. John Thune (R-SD), the bill would require the FCC to prove a clear need exists before asserting regulatory authority, and it would oblige the commission to provide analyses of potential costs of any proposed intervention.

“I am cosponsoring the FCC Act because I believe we need a safeguard to prevent unelected federal bureaucrats from imposing overreaching broadband regulations on American consumers,” said Thune. “This legislation will require the FCC to prove that consumers are being harmed before it imposes new rules, which will help ensure the Commission isn’t abusing its rulemaking authority.”

The bill has garnered the support of Sens. Hatch (R-UT), Ensign (R-NV), Coburn (R-OK), Cornyn (R-TX), and Sessions (R-AL).

Preventing FCC’s ‘Chilling Impact’

The FCC has made repeated attempts to assume regulatory control over the Internet, most recently by reclassifying it as a Title II telecommunications service, which would give the commission explicit authority over the Internet. Thune says such efforts are bureaucratic overreach that could result in irreplaceable financial losses.

“FCC Chairman Genachowski and the other Democratic commissioners’ effort to pursue new government control over the Internet is simply another example of the federal government attempting to unnecessarily interfere with consumers’ choices,” he said. “High speed broadband, particularly wireless broadband, has flourished under a light regulatory touch. Private sector investment in newer, faster broadband networks totals approximately $60 billion per year and new regulations over network management will have a chilling impact on this investment.”

FCC Could ‘Paralyze Investment’

Thune stated his disapproval of Genachowski’s proposed “Third Way” which would classify the Internet as a communications service rather than an informational one.

“While I believe attempts to increase broadband access to underserved areas [are] a worthy goal, I do not believe these efforts should come at the expense of consumer freedom and choice,” he said.

“The FCC Chairman’s attempt to go around a recent federal court decision by reclassifying the Internet has the potential to paralyze investment in broadband. Title II was never intended to regulate the Internet, and I fear such reclassification could hamper broadband growth and innovation. I believe Congress is the appropriate body to examine such reclassification efforts, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Senate Commerce Committee to review these efforts.”

Bruce Edward Walker ([email protected]) is managing editor of Info Tech & Telecom News.