Republicans Label FCC’s Suggested ‘Net Neutrality’ Regulations as ‘Illegal’

In a recent communication to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), a group of 29 Republican Congress members expressed their strong disapproval of the FCC’s plans to implement new regulations pertaining to “net neutrality.” The letter, directed at FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, criticized the decision to categorize both fixed and mobile broadband as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, labeling it as not only detrimental public policy but also illegal.

The lawmakers contested the necessity and legality of this reclassification, viewing it as an unnecessary response to a non-existent issue, accompanied by overly stringent regulations. They are referencing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued by the FCC on September 28, which intends to regulate broadband internet access more firmly by deeming it a telecommunications service. This move, according to the FCC, would empower the agency to better ensure national security and establish a consistent, nationwide method to maintain internet openness, thereby preventing internet service providers from participating in consumer-harmful activities.

However, the Congressional representatives countered that the existing minimal regulatory approach has been beneficial, contributing to reduced costs, increased speeds, and overall industry growth. They cautioned against adopting a more rigorous regulatory structure, arguing that the “utility-style” rules, initially established for the then-monopolistic telephone industry of the 1930s, are ill-suited for the highly competitive internet service market of the present day.

Furthermore, the letter emphasized the proposal’s legal deficiencies, asserting that broadband regulation is a critical economic and political matter. According to the major questions doctrine, as set forth in West Virginia v. EPA, such significant decisions necessitate explicit Congressional approval, underscoring that the FCC cannot act unilaterally in this domain. They maintained that if broadband is to be regulated as a utility, it must be Congress, not the FCC, that makes this determination, highlighting that there has been no legislative directive on this matter.