Wyoming’s U.S. Senators support repealing a 2015 rule established by the Federal Communications Commission to protect what is commonly referred to as “net neutrality” — the rule that internet service providers must treat all data on the Internet equally.
Service providers such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon have been vocal opponents of the rule, saying the added regulation stifles their freedom to charge for the use of the infrastructure they have developed and discourages investment in and development of new infrastructure.
Content providers such as Facebook, Netflix and Google — as well as other advocates for net neutrality — want to see the 2015 rule upheld, arguing innovation and entrepreneurship will be hurt if service providers have the ability to privilege select content.
Sens. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi, both Republican, support FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to scrap the 2015 rule, which treats internet access as a publicly regulated utility.
“The internet has revolutionized the way we teach, learn, conduct business and communicate with one another,” Barrasso says in a statement. “It’s important to ensure that users have open and reliable access to the Internet. It is equally important to ensure that future growth, investment, and innovation continues.”
Enzi agrees, said Max D’Onofrio, the senior senator’s press secretary.
“Sen. Enzi believes overregulation shouldn’t prevent the internet from being innovative,” D’Onofrio said. “This is how the industry has thrived since its creation.”
From 1996-2015, broadband was treated as an “information service,” subject to lighter federal regulation. The 2015 rule — known as the Open Internet Order and ushered in by Pai’s Democratic predecessor Tom Wheeler — reclassified broadband providers as “common carriers.”
This new classification subjected internet service providers to regulation outlined in Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. These regulations protect what has come to be known as net neutrality.
“Sen. Enzi had serious concerns with the previous administration implementing new net neutrality rules that would allow it to regulate internet providers as public utilities,” D’Onofrio said. “Instead of subjecting Internet providers to a 1934 law meant to regulate telephone companies and phone lines, Sen. Enzi believes Congress should work on updating our outdated telecommunications laws to reflect modern technological needs.”
Barrasso says the 2015 rule, if left in place, would hurt families in rural states such as Wyoming.
“I believe the FCC overreached by reclassifying broadband services under Title II,” he says in a statement. “With this heavy-handed regulatory approach, companies are discouraged from expanding and investing in advanced broadband networks.”
Maddy Weast, press secretary for Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, said the state’s sole U.S. House member is still researching the issue.
“Congressman Cheney is studying the recent FCC proposal, consulting with constituents, and meeting with FCC Chairman Pai this week to discuss the proposal,” Weast said.
The FCC is scheduled to vote on Pai’s proposal Dec. 14. Voting members of the commission include Pai and four others.