Last week, over 70 Democrats sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission, stating that they should not move forward with their plan to reclassify Internet Service Providers as common carriers. This week, over 170 Republicans did the same thing.
The letter, signed by Joe Barton, Republican of Texas and ranking member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Cliff Sterns, Republican of Florida and ranking member of that committee's subcommittee on the Internet, was sent to the Honorable Julius Genachowski on Friday, signed by 169 others in agreeance.
We write to encourage you not to proceed down your announced path to reclassify broadband service as a phone service under Title II of the Communications Act. Such a significant interpretive change to the Communications Act should be made by Congress.
The agency in the past has classified broadband as an "information" service rather than a "telecommunications" service, "outside the reach of the Title II common carrier rules."
Congress issued just such a policy statement in 1996 when it added section 230 to the Communications Act. That section makes it the policy of the United States "to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet and other interactive computer services, unfetters by Federal or State regulation." Whether the country should stray from that legislated posture - which has produced 200 million broadband subscribers in the last ten years - is a matter best left to Congress.
Regardless of if that "legislated posture" actually produced that many broadband users is a whole other situation to address, but the fact of the matter is that the Republicans and Democrats are both in agreeance that net neutrality rules rest upon the shoulders of Capitol Hill rather than the FCC.
To solidify that, the four top-ranking Congressional Democrats stated that they want hearing to consider options of rewriting the Communications Act. They look to ensure the hearing will be "bipartisan" and "issue-focused" starting this month.