Hoyer: Congress has broadband power

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) supports a legislative process to clarify the rules surrounding broadband services after an appeals court decision in April thrust the former regulatory framework into uncertainty, his office said on Tuesday.

Hoyer believes lawmakers “have the authority on this critical matter,” Hoyer’s spokeswoman Katie Grant told The Hill.

The endorsement of a congressional process comes amid squabbling between Internet service providers and public interest activists on whether Capitol Hill or the FCC should make decisions about the future of broadband.

The Democratic leaders of the commerce panels and House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher (D-Va.) have launched meetings with stakeholders on the prospect of targeted broadband legislation to clarify regulatory questions. Meanwhile, the FCC has launched a proceeding that could increase its power to regulate in this area.

“The FCC has itself acknowledged that it must walk a very careful legal path as it develops a reclassification plan, which underscores the utility of also having Congress … legislate a consensus approach,” Grant said.

Public interest groups such as Free Press, Public Knowledge, and the Media Access Project say legislation is an unnecessary alternative to the Democratic Federal Communications Commission’s plan to boost its regulatory authority over broadband through its own proceedings. 

Broadband providers such as AT&T and Verizon have called for a legislative process — rather than an FCC process — to clarify broadband regulations. They say an FCC process would not stand up in court. 

When questioned, Hoyer’s office did not take the opportunity to throw its support behind the FCC’s “Title II” reclassification plan, which would boost its authority over broadband access providers.

Seventy-seven House Democrats oppose the FCC plan to increase its authority.