No Money, No Enforcement: Net Neutrality Faces Crippling Budget Attack

by Matt Klassen on June 1, 2016

goptronics-640x360For years the telecom industry has been fighting against the Federal Communications Commission’s controversial Net Neutrality regulations, with legal challenges often resulting in opposite decisions that, while bringing no decisive closure, have always seemed to keep the dream alive. Then the FCC took steps to change the entire Net Neutrality discussion, reclassifying broadband service as a public utility and couching the regulations in a comfy legal blanket. It seemed that the cause of a free and open Internet had won the day…but then came the Republicans.

Now it’s no secret that many Republican talking heads in Congress absolutely loathe the FCC’s Net Neutrality standards, particularly rules that protect the principle that all online content should be treated equally. But with legal protections in place, Republicans have had to work to find other ways to hamstring Net Neutrality…and it looks like they found it.

So unable to directly attack the FCC’s laudable Net Neutrality rules, House Republicans have done the next best thing, they’ve stopped funding it. Now the FCC can have all the open Internet they want, they just won’t have any money to actually enforce it.

Given that Net Neutrality has become a major talking point of this current administration, Republicans have figured out that fighting Net Neutrality head-on is a losing battle. Openness and freedom have won the day, at the expense of big business no less, and you just knew Republicans couldn’t abide that. With that, their attention turned away from Net Neutrality and towards the FCC itself, chasing the idea that if they removed any and all power from the FCC, existing Net Neutrality regulations would be pointless.

With that, hidden deep within the House Appropriations Committee budget proposal, buried so far that no one will find it, is a new set of rules aimed at limiting the FCC’s ability to use its funds for anything involved with the regulation of “prices, other fees, or data caps and allowances” for the broadband industry. Simply put, while Net Neutrality itself remains untouched, the FCC has been robbed of all financial means to implement and enforce it.

Not only that, but the FCC has seen its entire funding slashed by $69 million, effectively removing the Commission’s ability to enforce Net Neutrality, legislate controversial “zero-rating” practices, and design reforms to expand the video set-top box sector. Simply put, the FCC is now what it has always really been, a completely pointless bureaucratic entity neutered of all power and devoid of all purpose.

“We are disappointed that the majority has hijacked what should be a straightforward bipartisan appropriations process and used it as yet another vehicle for dictating policies that directly harm consumers and undermine competition,” Kate Forscey, associate counsel at DC-based consumer rights group Public Knowledge, said in a statement.

“By significantly reducing funding by $69 million, the bill strips the FCC of critical resources needed to promote the public interest and in particular to prevent internet discrimination and protect consumers from price gouging,” Forscey added.

In fact, it’s almost like House Republicans have said, with an obvious snort of derision, “Sure, you can have your Net Neutrality, your freedom, your open Internet, we promise we won’t fight you on that anymore…you just can’t have the money to actually do anything about it. Enjoy!”

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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