The push for net neutrality has a new high-profile backer in Congress: Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi. The San Francisco rep is officially urging the Federal Communications Commission to take the controversial stance of reclassifying the Internet as a utility, which would give the agency broad authority to prevent paid Internet “fast lanes.”
“I oppose special Internet fast lanes, only open to those firms large enough to pay big money or fraught enough to give up big stakes in their company,” wrote Pelosi in a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler
Wheeler will soon be making a decision about whether telecommunications companies can charge extra money for faster service. Information technology giants fear that allowing websites to pay for a faster user experience could destroy the meritocracy of the web; potentially, wealthy established giants would outperform scrappy competitors because they have the money to pay for faster websites, not because their service is better.
Back in February, a federal court struck down the principle of net neutrality, but left open the possibility the FCC could prohibit fast lanes if it reclassified the Internet under Title II of the Communications Act.
This rather brute-force move could lead the FCC into complex litigation with telecom companies who oppose the reclassification.
Both the President and (now) the leaders of the Democratic party have come out in favor of this move, putting pressure on Wheeler to act aggressively.
Could Congress actually do anything in retaliation if Wheeler bucks them? Republicans are generally the ones voting to place limits on the FCC. Potentially, if Wheeler upsets the Democrats on net neutrality, they won’t come to his aid, should Republicans mount a serious offense against his agency. But in a do-nothing Congress, such threats are not promising.
The comment period for net neutrality closes on September 15th. Submit your ideas here.
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