Pallone Opposes GOP Bill Designed to Gut the FCC
Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) today voiced his opposition during House floor debate to H.R. 2666, the deceptively named “No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act.”
The bill is deceptively simple—it would prohibit the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from regulating the rates that broadband internet service providers (ISPs) charge. However, it provides an extremely broad definition of what it is prohibiting—the regulation of rates. Legal experts argue that the bill could undermine the FCC’s ability to act on a wide range of issues and ultimately undercut its ability to provide even the most basic consumer protections.
By prohibiting rate regulation of ISPs using a vague definition of that term, the bill could have the effect of making illegal the FCC’s authority to:
1. Act in the public interest
2. Address unfair or discriminatory practices and enforce consumer protections
3. Enforce net neutrality rules; and
4. Conduct merger reviews, among other things.
Pallone gave the following speech on the House floor during debate on the bill:
Today we are considering a deceptively simple bill – H.R. 2666. The bill states that the FCC may not regulate rates for broadband Internet access service. But I urge members on both sides of the aisle to not fall for this rhetoric and misinformation.
Just because this bill is “short” in length does not mean it is narrow in scope. It is designed to gut the FCC because—as experts have pointed out—the definitions in the bill for “rate regulation” could mean anything.
While the Republicans claim that they intend the bill to be narrow, we have heard over and over that their draft would swallow vast sections of the Communications Act. Most notably, this bill could undermine the FCC’s ability to protect consumers.
Democrats repeatedly offered to help improve this bill. But make no mistake, there was not a negotiation. We offered suggestions, but were rebuffed time and again. In fact, we raised concerns from the beginning that the original bill failed to define “rate regulation.” Then, at the eleventh hour, the Republicans provided their own take-it-or-leave-it definition—with no Democratic input. That is not negotiating. And the result of this one sided conversation is a definition of rate regulation that simply confirms our worst fears. The definition is so broad that it effectively would gut the agency.
We have said repeatedly that we do not want the FCC to set rates. But we cannot support a bill that undermines the FCC’s core mission. We cannot support a bill that prevents the agency from acting in the interest of the public. We cannot support a bill that prevents the agency from protecting consumers from discriminatory practices. We cannot support a bill that undercuts the FCC’s net neutrality rules. But Republicans have rebuffed all of our efforts to narrow H.R. 2666 so that consumers are not harmed.
If we are all serious about passing a narrow bill, accomplishing these goals should not be hard. Our collective interests should be aligned. But that clearly is not the intent of my Republican colleagues. I urge members to vote against H.R. 2666.
I yield back.