Last week, every single signer of a Net Neutrality Pledge to regulate the Internet lost their election. Then, two days later on November 4, the FCC released their November meeting agenda and Net Neutrality was notably absent. So, where does the FCC’s (and the neo-Marxist left’s) pet project go from here?
Most agree that the FCC’s Title II Internet regulation scheme is dead. For almost a year, the Commission has threatened to reclassify broadband Internet under 1930s laws to enact Net Neutrality regulations, and then some. Yet, over 300 Members of Congress – a vast, bipartisan majority from both the House and Senate – have stated clear opposition to the approach. Further, the Republicans taking control of the House of Representatives in January are virtually unanimously opposed to Net Neutrality rules. If the FCC made a move to enact regulations by fiat, Title II would likely wind up in court for the next few years. In the meantime the House, which controls Congress’s purse strings, could vote to defund any FCC enforcement, as Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) have already threatened to do.
At the same time, Congress is unlikely to take up the issue in the lame duck session or beginning next year. Rep. Henry Waxman’s (D-Calif.) attempt to negotiate even a watered-down version of Net Neutrality went down in flames, causing him to oddly blame Republicans (whose votes, being in the minority, were unneeded) and back the FCC’s effort instead (which was probably his intent all along). Beginning next year, every Republican in line to chair the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where Net Neutrality legislation must originate, is staunchly opposed, and focused on far more important bipartisan tech and telecom issues. This includes releasing more spectrum for mobile broadband Internet, something the FCC will finally begin focusing on at their meeting this month.
Last Thursday, when the Commission released their Net Neutrality-less agenda, was also the last day to submit comments on the current FCC proceeding. ATR’s Digital Liberty Project filed comments focused on how regulation of specialized broadband services means less investment, innovation, and consumer benefits in the future. We also pointed out the many technical challenges to enacting Net Neutrality on mobile Internet and argued that it – along with wired Internet – should remain completely untouched by the FCC. We only hope they take this advice at their final meeting of the year in December by again leaving Internet regulation off the agenda.