House Republican Bill Undermines Open Internet and Exposes Americans to Abuse from Cable and Phone Giants

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House Republican Bill Undermines Open Internet and Exposes Americans to Abuse from Cable and Phone Giants

WASHINGTON - The House on Friday passed legislation introduced by Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Illinois) that would limit the Federal Communications Commission’s ability to protect Internet users from abuses by broadband access companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon.

The No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act (H.R. 2666) purports to prevent the FCC from setting broadband customers’ prices, something the agency had already pledged not to do when it forbore from some provisions in Title II of the Communications Act. But the bill goes much further, undermining the FCC’s ability to protect Internet users against a wide range of unfair practices and hidden penalties imposed by cable and phone companies.

The bill has drawn broad opposition from both the public interest community and the White House. On Tuesday the administration’s Office of Management and Budget issued a statement recommending that the president veto the legislation should it reach his desk.

Free Press Action Fund Policy Director Matt Wood made the following statement:

“Don’t believe a word the House Majority leadership says about this bill. It’s really about giving massive broadband providers the ability to gouge Internet users with impunity. And it comes at a time when American Internet users are paying far too much in markets where there are few if any choices for high-speed access, and when the digital divide is only getting wider.

“Americans need relief from monopoly abuses, not more handouts to powerful companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon. Representative Kinzinger’s legislation is a classic congressional head fake. It claims to have one aim — preventing the FCC from setting prices — while actually preventing the agency from protecting consumers or stopping cable monopolies from engaging in unreasonable practices.

“This bill is completely unnecessary. The FCC has already set aside the power that Congress gave it to dictate the prices that broadband customers pay each month. But ISPs like Comcast characterize any and every safeguard as a regulation of the rates they’d like to charge for their most egregious, anti-consumer practices.

“There are meaningful differences between the rate-setting power Congress granted the FCC in the laws already on the books and the consumer-protection authority this bill endangers. Finding a harmful practice to be unreasonable, or banning it straight out, is a far different proposition from the FCC attempting to determine and set the prices that broadband providers’ retail customers pay for service every month.

“Congress shouldn’t stop the FCC from enforcing much-needed consumer protections at a time when the industry is consolidating. The Senate should reject this and any similar legislation, and the White House should veto the bill if it ever gets that far. Congress needs to let the FCC do its job to protect consumers and promote competition.”

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