Amazon wants changes to GOP Internet bill

Online giant Amazon is calling for changes to draft legislation from Republicans on new Internet rules, suggesting the measure could be ineffective and place too many limits on the Federal Communications Commission's authority.

Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president of global public policy, is slated to testify Wednesday before committees in the House and Senate on the draft legislation.

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Misener will tell lawmakers that Amazon believes FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has the authority he needs to go ahead with a vote next month on proposed net neutrality rules requiring all Internet traffic be treated equally. The online retail company "would not want" any efforts that could derail the commission’s plan. 

Nonetheless, Amazon "would welcome additional statutory discretion from Congress."

Misener suggests the current GOP draft legislation could be ineffective at enforcing the "excellent principles" described in the proposal, according to his prepared remarks. He will also say it is unnecessary to block the commission's authority to act under Title II of the Communications Act on net neutrality.

"Although the Discussion Draft’s net neutrality principles are promising, they also are fairly general," he will say.

"The bill should be modified accordingly to ensure that the Internet openness of net neutrality is maintained and effective."

Amazon is part of the Internet Association, which has supported President Obama and other advocates' recommendations for the FCC to enforce strong net neutrality rules by reclassifying the Internet similar to a public utility.

The bill released last Friday adopts many of the principles outlined by Democrats and other advocates, but specifically prevents the FCC from reclassifying the Internet or using an alternate authority to enforce the rules.

The proposal is meant to offer a path forward on net neutrality without reclassifcation. It would prevent Internet service providers from blocking or slowing traffic to any website. It would also ban service providers and websites from negotiating deals for faster service.

Amazon said there are several loopholes in the draft that could open the door to fast lanes for "specialized services" — a loosely defined term in the bill. Amazon said the draft could also open the door to providers thwarting net neutrality rules "further upstream in the network."

The net neutrality rules in the legislation are all subject to "reasonable network management." 

Amazon said this exception should be viewed suspiciously when it comes to wireless broadband. It could leave a loophole for mobile broadband providers to prioritize their own content, Amazon noted. 

Representatives from the cable and wireless industry are also slated to testify Wednesday.

The cable industry will give a full-throated endorsement of the proposal. 

Michael Powell, the president of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, plans to use his opening statement to say he "firmly believes" the draft proposal is the right approach. The trade group is "open to changes" in order to bring Democrats to the table as well.

The wireless industry plans to offer more tepid endorsement, calling the draft an "excellent start" that offers a "reasonable path" forward. 

Meredith Attwell Baker, president of the CTIA-The Wireless Association, will say it is "vital" that any legislation recognizes the "inherent differences" of mobile broadband. 

The industry, as well as other Internet service providers, is strongly opposed to the FCC’s expected plan to reclassify broadband similar to a utility. 

This story was updated at 4:03 p.m.