Jonathan Spalter, CEO of industry association USTelecom, blasted a move by politicians in the US Senate to reinstate net neutrality protections scrapped by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), insisting they should craft a new legislative solution instead.
Representatives in the Senate, one of two houses which make up the US Congress, filed a petition to force a vote on a resolution which would override the FCC’s December 2017 repeal of net neutrality regulations. The rules, which applied to internet service providers but not internet companies such as Facebook and Google, prohibited the blocking, throttling and paid prioritisation of web content.
The resolution in question was first introduced in the Senate in January, but no action was since taken.
In an opinion article published in the Morning Consult, Spalter derided the push to call a vote as a “hurried and counterproductive” process. He instead urged representatives in Congress to turn their attention to developing “modern legislation that delivers consistent safeguards across the online world”.
Spalter’s sentiment was echoed by fellow industry group CTIA, albeit in a roundabout way. The group backed statements from Senator John Thune, who called the vote a “mistake” which “only delays concrete protections for a free and open internet”.
Though the Senate activity reignited a national dialogue on the issue, the chamber’s resolution won’t restore net neutrality on its own. The measure would also need to be approved by a simple majority in the House of Representatives and signed by the President to take effect.
The pro-net neutrality coalition said it needs to confirm only one more yes vote to ensure the resolution passes in the Senate. However, the measure faces a steep climb in the House of Representatives, which introduced its own legislation to replace net neutrality regulations in December 2017.
The vote comes as AT&T weighs a potential challenge to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) ability to regulate operators in the Supreme Court.
When the FCC dropped net neutrality rules, the FTC assumed the role of enforcement agency in charge of remedying consumer abuses. But, in a court case related to throttling on its unlimited plans, AT&T argued the FTC holds no authority to regulate operators acting as so-called common carriers.
AT&T lost the case in appeals court in February, but could ask the Supreme Court to weigh in. If the latter agrees to hear the case, its decision could have significant implications for online regulation.