Senate appropriators: No plans for FCC rider

Republicans in the Senate aren’t thinking about using the appropriations process to block the Federal Communications Commission from issuing new regulations on Internet service providers.

The top GOP senators on the Appropriations Committee and the subcommittee overseeing the FCC both told The Hill this week that they don’t expect a rider preventing the commission from moving forward with the effort.

“I don’t see any possibility of that. I really don’t,” said Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), the ranking member of the Financial Services and General Government subcommittee.

“It’s not there yet,” added the top Republican on the full committee, Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.). “But you know, this is early.”

Republicans have been outraged by the FCC’s new plans to impose net neutrality regulations to try and ensure all content online is treated equally. A plan from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler would bar service providers like Comcast from blocking access to websites like Netflix or Amazon, but would let them make some arrangements to speed up service so long as they were “commercially reasonable.”

The commission is also accepting public comments on the possibility of reclassifying the broadband Internet as a public utility like telephone lines, which would give it more power to manage the companies. Some Democrats have pushed for the action in order to better protect consumers but Republicans have threatened it would lead to an all-out war.  

Though there are currently no plans for a rider in the Senate, one tech industry advocate said one would likely emerge at some point. 

“I think it’s likely that it will happen,” they said.

“From a strategy standpoint, it’s easy for members of Congress to make threats about that. And I’m sure they will.”

It wouldn’t be the first time that Republicans threatened the commission’s funding on the issue.

In 2010 and 2011, when the FCC was working on previous net neutrality regulations, Republicans in both chambers introduced riders to block the commission’s rules.  

The commission’s previous rules were tossed out by a top appeals court earlier this year, paving way for the new draft regulations.