Funding bill would block net neutrality until courts rule

FCC, Net Neutrality
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A House appropriations bill released Wednesday would block the Federal Communication Commission from implementing its net neutrality rules until the courts weigh in on the issue.

The Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill for the 2016 fiscal year includes funding for the communications regulator that falls $73 million below what the agency requested. In total, the bill grants the agency $315 million. It was introduced by the House Appropriations Committee and includes $20.2 billion in total funding for a number of agencies.

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Included in the bill is a provision designed to stop implementation of the net neutrality rules until the issue has finished winding its way through the courts. It says that none of the funds in the bill can be used to “implement, administer, or enforce” the rules until three legal challenges are resolves.

The cases in question are brought by Alamo Broadband, CenturyLink and trade group U.S. Telecom.

Unless the courts rule otherwise, the net neutrality order will take effect on Friday.

The bill includes a line specifically banning rate regulation by the FCC for either standard broadband service or wireless service. Conservatives say that the net neutrality order will open the door to rate regulation by the agency.

The funding bill also includes a provision specifying that the Commission cannot use funds to implement rules unless they post the text of the regulation online within 21 days.

Republicans in the House recently passed a collection of reforms they claim are aimed at making the FCC more transparent. Democrats say that the laws are simply retribution for the net neutrality order, which is seen as government overreach by conservatives and many in industry.

The rules, adopted earlier this year and supported by President Obama, reclassify Internet providers as utilities. Supporters of the rules say the agency’s new powers under the law will allow it to stop the providers from giving preference to some content on their networks.

Some have suggested standalone legislation that would limit the FCC’s power but still keep some net neutrality reforms. But supporters of the rule are largely opposed to such measures.