In the wake of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s announced intention to launch rulemaking proceedings that would roll back Title II classification of broadband Internet services, nine Senate Republicans took their own steps toward that goal in unveiling legislation that would nullify the Open Internet order and permanently bar the FCC from regulating Internet access services under Title II. The bill, known as the Restoring Internet Freedom Act (S. 983), was introduced Monday by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) with co-sponsors John Cornyn (R-TX), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Rand Paul (R-KY), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Ben Sasse (R-NE) and James Inhofe (R-OK).
In remarks to the press, Lee observed that the “dynamic and innovative” aspect of the U.S. Internet economy has evolved “largely because the federal government has taken a hands-off approach that has allowed permissionless innovation to deliver unthinkable technological advances in such a short amount of time.” Such innovation, claimed Lee, is “threatened by the [FCC]’s 2015 Open Internet order, which would put federal bureaucrats in charge of engineering the Internet’s infrastructure.” Although Cruz maintained that the bill “recognizes the transformative effect that the Internet has had on our lives . . . largely free of government’s heavy hand,” a spokesman for Public Knowledge charged that the legislation “represents the latest in the ongoing assault on consumer protections we have seen in just a few short months” and “underscores the need for all Americans to defend the current Open Internet rules.”
Meanwhile, in an open letter to Pai that targets the FCC’s upcoming proceeding to roll back Title II classification, Senate Commerce Committee members Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), wrote to voice their opposition “to your effort to repeal net neutrality protections.” Observing that, before the Open Internet rules went into effect, “companies discriminated against certain types of content by blocking it completely or slowing down access.” Schatz and Booker stressed the importance of preserving FCC rules “to make sure that, in the battle of content—of music, of ideas, of games, of apps—it is a fair fight.”