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Advocates press House appropriators not to 'gut' Internet rules

Advocates press House appropriators not to 'gut' Internet rules
© Greg Nash

More than 60 advocacy groups sent a letter to the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday urging the panel to remove provisions from a spending bill that would "gut" new net neutrality rules. 

"We are deeply concerned that the FCC’s public process would be undermined by these appropriations measures, threatening our First Amendment rights and the Internet economy," the groups wrote in the letter sent to Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and Ranking Democrat Nita Lowey (N.Y.)

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The appropriations panel is slated to markup the Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill on Wednesday, which, among other things, would bar the agency from implementing new net neutrality rules until a court battle is resolved. 

The bill would also ban the agency from regulating the rates of Internet service — something the FCC has said it will refrain from doing — and would force the agency to publicly post any regulations for 21 days before they are considered in the future.  

The groups said net neutrality, the idea that all Internet traffic should be treated equally, is "under attack by a handful of monopoly-minded" telecom companies. 

"These providers have clearly shown that absent Net Neutrality rules, they would prioritize their own interests and set the terms for what individual users and Internet companies can see, say, and create online," according to the letter. 

Groups like Public Knowledge, Free Press, Demand Progress, The American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation signed the letter. Etsy, a strong supporter of the rules, was one of the few companies to join. 

Internet service providers and telecom trade groups are suing to strike down the regulations, which are strongly opposed by Republicans.

Democrats have strongly supported the new rules and it is unlikely an appropriations bill that rolls them back would pass both chambers and get the president's signature. 

The rules went into effect last Friday after the D.C. Circuit declined to delay them while the underlying case is worked out. An expedited ruling could be handed down early next spring.