Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said Wednesday he supports a Senate resolution to repeal the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules, which could be voted on today.
The resolution would repeal the net neutrality rules issued last year that go into effect this month. Net neutrality is the idea that consumers should have access to all Internet content and services, and not by limited by Internet service providers “that want to treat them differently so they can charge you more depending on what you use.”
Net neutrality has encountered opposition, with Verizon announcing a law suit against the FCC, “saying the regulations are too stringent and go beyond the agency’s authority.”
Julius Genachowski, chariman of the FCC, said in written statement (.pdf) before the rules were approved:
As we stand here now, the freedom and openness of the Internet are unprotected. No rules on the books to protect basic Internet values. No process for monitoring Internet openness as technology and business models evolve. No recourse for innovators, consumers, or speakers harmed by improper practices. And no predictability for Internet service providers, so that they can effectively manage and invest in broadband networks. That will change once we vote to approve this strong and balanced order.
Matt Wood — policy director for Free Press, which manages the Save the Internet campaign — tells The Florida Independent that if the Senate resolution becomes law, the FCC “would not be able to adopt regulations on that issue again without further authorizations by Congress; if it does pass into law it would take away even more of the FCC’s power to oversee broadband and protect consumers online.”
Wood adds that repeal of FCC rules “would allow [Internet service providers] to block consumers from websites, from lawful content of your choice, block and charge you more to access certain sites, speed up certain sites or slow others down.”
“With bandwidth caps that are now being adopted by many companies, we would argue that with the [FCC] rules in place,” a company could not “count a competitor’s content against their own cap,” Wood tells the Independent.
“To put that in real terms: Today for instance if Comcast has a bandwidth cap,” Wood explains, “these rules prevent [a company] from saying, ‘Well all your Netflix video counts against your cap, but if you want to stream videos from Comcast that comes free, without counting against the cap.’”
Wood says that without current FCC rules, Internet service providers “could privilege their own content, forcing consumers to either pay more, or run the risk of going over the monthly allotment of data by choosing content from a competitor, instead of getting it straight from Comcast, Verizon or whoever their ISP is.”
A study released by the Institute for Policy Integrity (.pdf) in October
describes how a weakening of the principle of network neutrality might impact the Web. Based on an analysis of Internet usage, it finds that Internet infrastructure and content work together to generate huge economic benefits for consumers—possibly as much as $5,686 per user, per year.
Eliminating network neutrality, as some have proposed, may reduce incentives to invest in Internet content and infrastructure.
In Senate remarks, Rubio said the “Internet regulation that we are talking about here today, this regulation, would lead to lower quality of services and raise operating costs, which would result in higher prices on consumers.”
“Regulating the Internet and this specific measure we are trying today to knock down, if it passes, this specific measure will discourage that development,” Rubio argued.
Watch Rubio’s remarks:
The chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Democrat John Rockefeller stated his opposition to the resolution in a press release. Rockefeller writes that FCC rules “keep the Internet open and free.”
Rockefeller adds that FCC’s rules were the product of “extensive input from stakeholders from all quarters of the broadband economy. In fact, the FCC received written input from more than 100,000 commenters. And 90 percent of those filing supported adoption of Open Internet rules,” adding that “the rules are based on longstanding and widely accepted Open Internet principles, which were first articulated during the Bush Administration.”
Wood says that current FCC rules would maintain the Internet as it always has been, “getting gatekeepers out of the middle, and getting people to the content of their choice. We see this as necessary to make sure that Internet service providers cannot change the fundamental nature of the Internet customers have come to rely on.”