Tags: net neutrality | John Thune | GOP | law | Internet | Netflix | Comcast

Thune, GOP Preparing Net Neutrality Substitute Law

By    |   Monday, 19 Jan 2015 11:21 PM

Republicans who had blasted President Barack Obama's proposed rules to stop companies from blocking or slowing down the web are now circulating legislation to do the same thing — but prohibit the Federal Communications Commission from issuing regulations on the issue.

"The ground has shifted," Chip Pickering, a former Republican House member now lobbying for small Internet service providers told The New York Times.

"Republicans lumped net neutrality in with the carbon tax and Obamacare: 'He's taking over everything and now he wants to take over the Internet.' But it was a reactive, visceral response without a real understanding."

The issue goes before House and Senate panels in hearings Wednesday that will pit the cable television and wireless lobbies against Amazon and Etsy, an online craft market, the Times notes.

And South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune, who heads the Commerce Committee, wants legislation ready next week before the FCC's February meeting, the newspaper reports.

"By turning the FCC away from a heavy-handed and messy approach to regulating the Internet, this draft protects both consumers who rely on Internet services and innovators who create jobs," Thune said about his legislation in a statement, the Times reports.

The FCC has been bombarded with 4 million comments on net neutrality — overwhelmingly in favor — ahead of its Feb. 26 vote on the issue, the Times reports.

After Texas Sen. Ted Cruz called net neutrality "the biggest regulatory threat to the Internet," his Facebook page was deluged with comments lauding his politics and blasting his net neutrality stance.

"Senator Cruz, you are risking alienating a huge part of your base by such a pro-monopoly stance. The battle for net neutrality is a conservative cause," the Times quotes one Facebook comment stating.

Companies like Netflix, Tumblr, Reddit, and Vimeo say they need protection against giants like Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, and Time Warner, which could use their power over cable and fiber-optic lines to slow consumer access to websites that offer competing content or fail to pay for fast service.

It could happen.

According to the Times, Comcast customers found their access to Netflix getting progressively slower between the summer of 2013 and 2014 as Netflix’s streaming grew more popular and Comcast refused to upgrade its capacity.

Last February, Netflix did what Comcast wanted: paid a still-undisclosed sum to fix the problem, the Times reports.

"The reason I think Netflix has captured people’s attention is what happened to our service was real, it was bad, and it was recent," said Corie Wright, the director of global public policy at Netflix.

"They think of that buffering signal and the video that didn’t start and the problems that net neutrality is supposed to solve were literally brought home."

But in a filing to the FCC last month, the Times says, Comcast said reclassifying wireless and wired broadband service as a regulated public utility would harm investment and diminish capacity.

"The public discourse on open Internet issues has now reached a fever pitch," Comcast wrote. "Emotion and hyperbole are substituting for fact."

Verizon, in its public policy blog, even blamed Netflix for the slow service, saying it was using cut-rate providers — "perhaps to cut costs and improve its profitability" — to carry content to the big broadband companies.

"Netflix knew better. Netflix is responsible," Verizon said.

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Republicans who had blasted President Obama's proposed rules to stop companies from blocking or slowing down the web are now circulating legislation to do the same thing — but prohibit the Federal Communications Commission from issuing regulations on the issue.
net neutrality, John Thune, GOP, law, Internet, Netflix, Comcast, broadband
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2015-21-19
Monday, 19 Jan 2015 11:21 PM
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