House Passes Bill to Derail ‘Restoring Internet Freedom’

On largely partisan lines, the House of Representatives this week passed the “Save the Internet Act.” This bill (H.R. 1644) essentially would roll back the Federal Communications Commission’s “Restoring Internet Freedom” order of 2017, thereby reinstating utility-style government powers over the internet that had been assumed during the Obama administration.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who spearheaded the NRB-supported “Restoring Internet Freedom” order, called this latest bill “a big-government solution in search of a problem.” In a tweet he also sent out a reminder about the alarmism of those so passionately pushing for these new government powers: “The same people who told you in December 2017 that the internet was about to end and that you’d have to pay $5 per tweet now want to put the government in charge of the internet to ‘save’ it.”

Democrats appear uninterested in exploring a compromise that would end the years of escalating ping-pong in this important area. Indeed, House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-Ore.) has outlined areas of agreement between Republicans and Democrats on key issues of blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization of content. Where they currently part ways is on the imposition of Title II powers over the internet. In a FOX News op-ed, Walden stated, “This will do everything but save the internet.”

Walden added, “‘Title II’ sounds inconsequential, but layering this new national governance over the web would give the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unbridled regulatory authority. The government would have the power to tax the internet, dictate where and when new broadband networks can be deployed, and take over the management of private networks.”

During its annual meeting at the start of Proclaim 19, the NRB International Christian Media Convention in Anaheim, California, the NRB Board of Directors approved a resolution re-iterating the association’s opposition to the FCC’s 2015 order that assumed heavy-handed Title II powers over the internet. The Board also highlighted the growing problem of viewpoint censorship by “edge providers” like Google, Facebook, and Twitter – an area of the internet ecosystem not considered by the latest “Save the Internet Act.”

While prodding the tech industry to honor First Amendment values on its own, NRB’s Board resolved:

If ubiquitous tech titans continue to engage in viewpoint censorship, NRB urges Congress to creatively evaluate remedies aimed at discouraging such censorship and providing opportunity for citizens to seek redress against such discrimination. All the while, NRB also urges the United States to uphold and advance a position of a “light touch” toward the internet and to continue to work to ensure principles of freedom on the internet globally.

NRB this week issued a release declaring its commitment to “ensuring a new birth of freedom for internet free speech and looks forward to a public dialogue with lawmakers, technology companies, and regulators in order to guarantee that liberty.”

Notably, the White House has issued a veto threat on the “Save the Internet Act,” and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said it is “dead on the arrival” when it comes from the House of Representatives to the Senate.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: April 12, 2019

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