Republicans in Congress try to kill FCC’s broadband discrimination rules

Enlarge / US Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) speaks to the press on June 13, 2023, in Washington, DC.

Getty Images | Michael McCoy

More than 65 Republican lawmakers this week introduced legislation to nullify rules that prohibit discrimination in access to broadband services.

The Federal Communications Commission approved the rules in November despite opposition from broadband providers. The FCC’s two Republicans dissented in the 3-2 vote. While the FCC was required by Congress to issue anti-discrimination rules, Republicans argue that the agency’s Democratic majority wrote rules that are too broad.

On Tuesday this week, US House Republications submitted a resolution of disapproval that would use Congressional Review Act authority to kill the anti-discrimination rules. “Under the guise of ‘equity,’ the Biden administration is attempting to radically expand the federal government’s control of all Internet services and infrastructure,” lead sponsor Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) said.

Clyde alleged that the “FCC’s so-called ‘digital discrimination’ rule hands bureaucrats unmitigated regulatory authority that will undoubtedly impede innovation, burden consumers, and generate censorship concerns,” and that it is an “unconstitutional power grab.”

Bill co-sponsor Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.) complained about what he called “the FCC’s totalitarian overreach,” which he said “goes against the very core of free market capitalism.”

Clyde and Carter said their resolution is supported by telecom industry trade groups USTelecom and CTIA, and various conservative advocacy groups. The lawmakers’ press releases included a quote from Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, who said the resolution is “an opportunity to reverse the FCC’s takeover of the Internet.”

Lawsuits more likely to block rules

In 2017, Republicans used the same Congressional Review Act authority to block broadband-privacy rules. But this time, they essentially have no chance of success.

While Republicans currently have a majority in the House, they’d be unlikely to get the new resolution approved in both chambers because of the Senate’s Democratic majority. Congressional Review Act resolutions of disapproval can also be vetoed by the president.

A more likely path to getting the rules blocked is through the courts. The US Chamber of Commerce sued the FCC this week in an attempt to block the rules, arguing that the FCC exceeded its legal authority.

The lawsuit was filed in the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, which is generally considered to be one of the most conservative US appeals courts. The Chamber has argued that the FCC rules “micromanag[e] broadband providers through price controls, terms of service requirements, and counterproductive labor provisions.”

ISPs are suing the FCC, too. The Texas Cable Association joined the Chamber of Commerce lawsuit. Separate lawsuits were filed in the 8th and 11th Circuit appeals courts by the Minnesota Telecom Alliance and Florida Internet & Television Association.

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