Marsha Blackburn, the conservative Republican lawmaker from Tennessee, has reintroduced legislation in Congress to block the Federal Communications Commission from implementing its landmark new net neutrality rules, her office announced today.
Blackburn, who has been one of Capitol Hill's top recipients of financial support from the nation's largest telecom and cable companies, is a longtime opponent of net neutrality, the internet's open access principle, which is designed to ensure that all data is treated equally.
Last week, the FCC voted to approve robust new net neutrality protections, in an historic victory for open internet advocates and a stinging defeat for telecom industry giants and their allies in Congress. The three Democratic FCC commissioners voted in favor of the new rules; the two Republican commissioners dissented.
Blackburn's bill, which her office said aims to "block the Obama Administration's efforts to take over the Internet" contains language stating that the new FCC rules that "shall have no force or effect" and prohibits the FCC from revisiting the issue. Blackburn has repeatedly introduced versions of the legislation in recent years.
"Last week's vote by the FCC to regulate the Internet like a 1930s era public utility is further proof that the Obama Administration will stop at nothing in their efforts to control the Internet," Blackburn said in a statement. "There is nothing 'free and open' about this heavy-handed approach. These overreaching rules will stifle innovation, restrict freedoms, and lead to billions of dollars in new fees and taxes for American consumers."
The new FCC rules, which have become a bitterly contested partisan political issue, use the FCC's Title II authority to prohibit internet service providers from blocking or throttling internet content and services. The new rules also ban paid prioritization, which are commercial deals in which ISPs strike special arrangements with deep-pocketed companies for preferential treatment.
Through a process known as "forbearance," the FCC won't apply several aspects of Title II, in order to avoid imposing taxes, fees, and other burdens associated with utility regulation.
"My legislation will put the brakes on this FCC overreach and protect our innovators from these job-killing regulations."
Blackburn and other FCC critics accuse the Obama administration of trying to take over the internet by imposing heavy handed new regulations that they claim will stifle online innovation and investment.
"Once the federal government establishes a foothold into managing how Internet service providers run their networks they will essentially be deciding which content goes first, second, third, or not at all," she said in a press release. "My legislation will put the brakes on this FCC overreach and protect our innovators from these job-killing regulations."
Over the last decade, AT&T and Verizon have been Blackburn's second and third largest donors, pouring $66,750 and $59,650 into her campaigns, respectively, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. She's also received $56,000 from the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, an industry trade group, and $36,000 from Comcast, the nation's largest cable company.
Free Press, a DC-based public interest group, slammed Blackburn's proposed legislation in statement issued to Motherboard.
"This is an absurd piece of legislation that only shows how out of touch with the American public these legislators have become," said Craig Aaron, president and CEO of Free Press. "The FCC responded to an overwhelming public outcry to make rules that will actually protect Internet users."
Over the last year, a broad coalition of net neutrality activist groups mobilized millions of people, shutting down the FCC's switchboard with calls and flooding its website with nearly four million public comments.
"The only folks legislation like this will protect are the cable executives at the most hated companies in America," Aaron added. "This bill should be strongly opposed by everyone who cares about Internet freedom and ignored by any legislator looking to stay on the right side of history."