On the eve of a Federal Communications Commission vote to repeal net neutrality rules, some congressional Republicans are suddenly pivoting against the Trump administration and joining the outcry against the move — just as a new poll shows the vast majority of GOP voters want the rules preserved.
In 2015, the FCC put in place strong net neutrality regulations, which prevent internet service providers from selectively blocking or throttling content by charging for paid prioritization or censoring politically critical content.
After President Donald Trump in April said he wanted the rules eliminated, his newly installed FCC commissioner Ajit Pai — a former lawyer for Verizon — began a process to repeal the rules. That process will culminate in a vote scheduled for Thursday.
Pai’s proposed FCC order would undo the Barack Obama administration’s 2015 Title II classification of ISPs as “common carriers” while simultaneously preventing states from issuing their own net neutrality rules. Pai has frequently claimed the unelected FCC commissioners should not be setting policy.
The repeal effort would be a boon to telecommunications corporations, who are among the biggest campaign donors to federal lawmakers. But Pai’s initiative has prompted a backlash among consumer groups and political groups across the ideological spectrum, who say the repeal would both jeopardize the free flow of information on the internet as well as innovation and competition online.
Much of the congressional opposition to the repeal has come from Democrats — but a new poll shows three out of four Republican voters oppose the Pai’s proposal. As that opposition has swelled, high-profile Republican lawmakers are suddenly speaking out against the repeal in the final hours before the FCC vote.
Chief among the critics are U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman — a five-term incumbent who represents the kind of pivotal swing seat Republicans need to win to maintain their House majority. Coffman on Tuesday sent a letter to Pai demanding delay the FCC’s vote and allow Congress to pass permanent open internet legislation instead.
Thx to everyone who has contacted me in regards to #NetNeutrality. Below is the letter I sent to Chairman @AjitPaiFCC today to ensure the continuation of a free and open #internet. pic.twitter.com/oKqh7lxaLI
— Rep. Mike Coffman (@RepMikeCoffman) December 12, 2017
“The Internet has been and remains a transformative tool, and I am concerned that any action you make take to alter the rules under which it functions may well have significant unanticipated negative consequences,” Coffman wrote to Pai. “Therefore, I urge you to delay your upcoming vote and provide Congress with the opportunity to hold hearings on the net neutrality issue and to pass permanent open Internet legislation.”
Coffman’s break with the telecom industry lobby is particularly notable, considering that Comcast just shifted 1,000 jobs to his district last year, a move that normally cultivates political favor.
The night before Coffman sent his letter, Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska also posted on Twitter that he asked Pai to “preserve the framework of net neutrality.”
I recently urged Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai to preserve the framework of net neutrality. The upcoming decision should not allow for corporate monopolistic domination, whether internet service provider delivery or content creators. #NetNeutraility
— Jeff Fortenberry (@JeffFortenberry) December 11, 2017
Republican Reps. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, John Curtis of Utah, Dave Reichert of Washington and GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine have all recently expressed skepticism of Pai’s proposed order.
“We commend Rep. Mike Coffman and all the other Republicans who have opposed FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to destroy net neutrality,” Pierce Stanley, technology fellow at Demand Progress said in a statement. “By opposing Pai’s plan, Republicans are demonstrating that they stand with their constituents, and not Comcast, when it comes to preserving an internet free from censorship and slow lanes. It’s time for all members of congress, Republican and Democrat alike, to join in the call for the FCC to cancel its Thursday vote to repeal net neutrality protections, which would be catastrophic for innovation and free expression.”
Article originally posted by ibtimes.