GOP lawmaker offers bill to block treating Internet as utility

Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) has reintroduced legislation to prevent the Federal Communications Commission from reclassifying broadband Internet as a utility.

Latta, vice chairman of the House Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, called the FCC’s plans misguided. His legislation notes that the strict regulations were “designed for the monopoly telephone system in 1934 and has its origins in 19th century shipping regulations.”

ADVERTISEMENT
“These businesses thrive on dynamism and the ability to evolve quickly to shifting market and consumer forces,” he said in a statement. “Subjecting them to bureaucratic red tape won’t promote innovation, consumer welfare or the economy.”

Latta first introduced his legislation in May, after the FCC issued its first proposal on net neutrality — rules meant to ensure all Internet traffic is treated equally. 

Since then, it has become increasingly likely that the FCC will vote on rules that include reclassifying the Internet under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. 

The rules, pushed by President Obama and other advocates, are meant to prevent Internet service providers from slowing or blocking service to any website, while also preventing providers from negotiating deals with some websites for faster service. 

However, Latta and other Republicans say the increased regulations will stifle investment in broadband build out. Reclassification could also lead to increased taxes on consumers, they warn. 

Last year, Latta’s legislation gained only two co-sponsors — Reps. Randy Weber (R-Texas) and Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.). Republicans are looking at new ways to pre-empt the FCC’s rules with legislation, but a proposal is still in the early stages. 

The FCC is scheduled to vote on updated rules in late February.