Republicans in Congress try to kill FCC’s broadband discrimination rules

Enlarge / U.S. Representative Andrew Clyde (Republican of Georgia) speaks to the press June 13, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Getty Images | Michael McCoy

More than 65 Republican lawmakers introduced legislation this week to roll back rules prohibiting discrimination in access to broadband services.

The Federal Communications Commission approved the rules in November despite opposition from broadband providers. The two FCC Republicans disagreed in the 3-2 vote. While the FCC was required by Congress To issue anti-discrimination rules, Republicans say the agency's Democratic majority wrote rules that were too broad.

On Tuesday this week, U.S. House Publications submitted a resolution of disapproval it would use the authority of the Congressional Review Act to eliminate anti-discrimination rules. “Under the guise of 'fairness,' the Biden administration is attempting to radically expand federal government control over all Internet services and infrastructure,” said lead sponsor Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) said.

Clyde alleged that “the FCC's so-called 'digital discrimination' rule gives bureaucrats absolute regulatory authority that will undoubtedly hinder innovation, burden consumers, and generate censorship problems,” and that it is an “unconstitutional seizure of power”.

Bill co-sponsors Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.) complained about what he calls “the totalitarian excesses of the FCC,” which he says “go against the very heart of free market capitalism.”

Clyde and Carter said their resolution was supported by telecommunications industry trade groups USTelecom and CTIA, as well as various conservative advocacy groups. The lawmakers' press releases included a quote from Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, who said the resolution was “an opportunity to reverse the FCC's takeover of the Internet.”

Lawsuits are more likely to block rules

In 2017, Republicans used the same Congressional Review Act authority to block broadband privacy rules. But this time, they have almost no chance of success.

Although Republicans currently have a majority in the House, they are unlikely to gain approval of the new resolution in both chambers due to the Democratic majority in the Senate. Resolutions of disapproval of the Congressional Review Act may also be vetoed by the president.

A more likely route to blocking the rules is through the courts. The American Chamber of Commerce the FCC continued this week to try to block the rules, arguing that the FCC had exceeded its legal authority.

The suit was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, which is generally considered one of the the most conservative American Courts of Appeals. The Chamber has argued that the FCC regulates “micromanagement”[e] broadband providers through price controls, terms of service requirements and counterproductive labor provisions.

ISPs are also suing the FCC. The Texas Cable Association joined the Chamber of Commerce's lawsuit. Separate lawsuits were filed in the 8th and 11th Circuit Courts of Appeals by the Minnesota Telecommunications Alliance And Florida Internet and Television Association.

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