Technology

Silicon Valley Dem: Net neutrality repeal would spark ‘revolution’

Republicans should expect a backlash if they repeal the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) net neutrality rules, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) said.

The ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Communications and Technology subcommittee didn’t seem concerned about the resolutions of disapproval introduced in both chambers this week by Republicans opposed to the net neutrality rules passed by the FCC in December.

“If they actually change that, there will be a revolution in this country,” Eshoo said during a discussion with reporters on Thursday. 

The resolutions appear unlikely to pass, as the GOP would have to secure significant Democratic support in the Senate.

Eshoo called the Republicans’ attempt at negating the rules a “march to folly,” claiming the public overwhelmingly supports rules that prevent discrimination by Internet service providers.

“It’s a waste of time when there are so many huge issues to be resolved,” she said.

Eshoo denied that the presence of Silicon Valley in her district makes her disposed to policies that favor companies such as Google, pointing to her opposition to Google’s joint open Internet proposal with Verizon.

“With all due respect, what they were supporting, if it had been in place 11 years ago Google wouldn’t have been born,” she said. Eshoo also defended Congress’ incremental approach to technology policy.

“We have to take the long view,” Eshoo said. “The consumer drives everything.”

Instead, Eshoo would like to see more of the committee’s time devoted to diving deeply into the issue of airwave spectrum allocation. She said too little is known currently about options such as assigning the D Block of spectrum to public safety and hopes more hearings will be held to examine the choices facing Congress and the FCC.

Eshoo noted the opportunity to assign large blocks of spectrum only comes along once in every couple of decades and said more work was needed to investigate the possible options. She called spectrum a “precious commodity” that should be leveraged for the public good.

Eshoo said she doesn’t want to leap straight to forcing broadcasters to relinquishing spectrum but called the notion of incentivizing them to do so voluntarily for auctioning a “fascinating” idea.

“Because everyone has a price,” Eshoo said, acknowledging a recent study that estimated such auctions could bring in more than $33 billion. “That’s serious money.”

Eshoo said she likes and respects subcommittee chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), calling him an able, intelligent person. She hopes the two can work together to hold hearings that will clearly explore all of the possible outcomes before moving forward with any spectrum policy.

But reaching a solution in a timely manner is crucial to encourage businesses to start investing in next generation digital infrastructure, Eshoo said.

“I wouldn’t invest without knowing the regulatory or legislative framework.” 

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