by Matthew L. Schafer
On Friday, Congressmen Gene Green [D-TX] and Fred Upton [R-MI] introduced a concurrent resolution that “directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to wait for Congress to enact a law prior to issuing rules, regulations, or orders concerning additional regulation of broadband Internet service.”
Since the FCC lost a case to Comcast last April, which stripped the FCC’s ability to prevent Internet service providers from blocking or throttling traffic online, it has been pursuing what FCC Chairmen Julius Genachowski has called a “Third Way.” The “Third Way” would prevent Internet service providers like Comcast and AT&T from discriminating against certain types of traffic.
The move to “reclassify” the Internet in this way would give the FCC tailored authority that is neither as lenient as regulation under Title I or information services and not as strict as Title II or telecommunications services. Despite the FCC’s attempt at tailored regulation, the concurrent resolution introduced today would urge the FCC not to move forward with reclassification. Reps. Green and Upton were joined in their resolution by 46 other congressmen, including 24 Democrats.
“If the FCC continues its pursuit of reclassification, the certain result will be lengthy court battles that will reduce, or even halt, capital investments and effectively cease the improvement and expansion of access to the unserved and underserved areas of the country,” Rep. Green said.
While Green attempts to halt FCC efforts to reassert its authority over ISPs, Comcast and other service providers are free to discriminate against content online without repercussions from the FCC. This comes despite the court’s admission in the Comcast case that “Congress gave the [Commission] broad and adaptable jurisdiction so that it can keep pace with rapidly evolving communications technologies.”
Green and Upton’s concurrent resolution comes after this week’s heated letter writing exchange between Rep. John Dingell [D-MI] and Genachowski and a speech by Rep. Al Franken [D-MN.] in support of reclassification. While Dingell told Genachowski to “abandon” reclassification, Franken argued that the protection reclassification brings is necessary for a free and open Internet.
While Green’s office says the current resolution is not an appraisal of the merits of “net neutrality,” in the past Green has been an avid opponent of this move to prevent ISPs from slowing or stopping some online traffic. In an October 2009 speech on the floor of the House, Green called FCC attempts to prevent online content discrimination “micromanag[ing].”
Both Upton and Green have financial ties to the telecommunications industry. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Green has accepted over $80,000 from AT&T in campaign donations. Upton has also accepted thousands in campaign donations from Verizon, AT&T, and Time Warner Cable and holds $1,001-$15,000 in Verizon stock, $15,001-50,000 in AT&T stock, and $1,001-$15,000 in Comcast stock.
The resolution, which Green says “reinforces the powers that are reserved for Congress under the Constitution,” is unlikely to pass the House. Even if the concurrent resolution did pass, it would does not carry the weight of the law or require President Obama to sign it.