Capitol Hill may resemble a ghost-town this time of year, but things are far from quiet on the Net Neutrality front.
Late last week, 39 members of the House and Senate sent a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler echoing the president’s call to protect real Net Neutrality now by reclassifying broadband Internet access services under Title II. “Everyone has spoken; now is the time for action,” the letter reads. “We urge you to act without delay to finalize rules that keep the Internet free and open for business.”
This isn’t the first time that the letter’s authors, Sen. Edward J. Markey (Mass.) and Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (Calif.), have weighed in on value of the open Internet. Both called for reclassification earlier this year. Sen. Markey organized his colleagues to sign a letter in July and Rep. Eshoo, who also serves as ranking member of the subcommittee that deals with Internet issues, pushed for Title II in a letter to the Chairman this fall. Additional signers include Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs, Rep. Keith Ellison (Minn.) and Rep. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.), as well as long-time Net Neutrality supporters like Rep. John Conyers (Mich.) and Rep. John Lewis (Ga.).
Meanwhile, Sen. Ron Wyden called out recent fear-mongering by the phone and cable lobby, which has been making the false claim that reclassification would lead to new federal, state and local taxes. We have debunked this favorite industry talking point multiple times. The claims were exposed after Congress reauthorized the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) this month. Writing on his blog last week, Sen. Wyden, who authored the ITFA, summed it up succinctly, calling “baloney” the notion that reclassification would stick consumers with new taxes.
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While these positive Net Neutrality developments are noteworthy, foes of the open Internet are teeing up their own push for early 2015. Rumors of new, industry-backed legislation are circulating. Any legislation backed by the cable and phone lobby shouldn't be taken at face value. If it claims to protect the open Internet, you can expect that it will seek the opposite result.
While 2014 has been a big year for Net Neutrality and its many supporters, phone and cable companies will be back in 2015 with plans to crush the movement for a free and open Internet.
Better put your members of Congress on speed dial over the holiday break.