This week FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler put aside all doubt by stating in an article in WIRED Magazine, “I am proposing that the FCC use its Title II authority to implement and enforce open Internet protections.” When President Obama encouraged this course in November, Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President & CEO of NRB, labeled it a “federal power grab.” Similarly, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) this week called it a “power grab for the federal government by the chairman of a supposedly independent agency who finally succumbed to the bully tactics of political activists and the President himself.” Senator Thune and his counterpart in the House, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), have been working on legislation to ban such practices as blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization without subjecting broadband providers to Title II, which allows for the regulation of “common carriers” as public utilities. For his part, the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), said, “The FCC is just doing its job,” supported Chairman Wheeler, and stated his hope to work in a bipartisan way with Senator Thune.
In NRB’s earlier release, Dr. Johnson agreed that “the President does have a valid concern that providers not block legal online content that they do not prefer or like.” In line with NRB’s work through the John Milton Project for Free Speech, he added, “Indeed, I would challenge him to consider that ‘edge providers’ like Facebook also should not engage in viewpoint censorship.” Dr. Johnson then emphasized, “However, he is very wrong to insist that the FCC unilaterally assume heavy-handed Title II authority over the Internet. If the FCC feels it needs such power, the Executive Branch should ask Congress for it, and see what the people’s representatives permit. That is how our Republic works.”
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
Published: February 6, 2015