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Key Senators Block GOP Efforts To Upend Net Neutrality

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We write to object strongly to the use of the appropriations process or the Congressional Review Act to keep the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from doing its job. The House has included an amendment to the continuing resolution to deny the agency funds for implementing a recent order to protect the open Internet. And they are talking about moving forward with a Congressional Review Act resolution to achieve the same end. We ask you to object to any similar efforts here in the Senate.

You can read the entire letter below. Here's a primer on how Republicans plan to use the Congressional Review Act to stymie executive branch legislation. "Telephone and cable companies do not own the Internet," the senators write. "But if the amendment the House passed is not struck or if their CRA effort is successful, they will."

Dear Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell:

We write to object strongly to the use of the appropriations process or the Congressional Review Act to keep the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from doing its job. The House has included an amendment to the continuing resolution to deny the agency funds for implementing a recent order to protect the open Internet. And they are talking about moving forward with a Congressional Review Act resolution to achieve the same end. We ask you to object to any similar efforts here in the Senate. Such action aims to strip the FCC of its legal authority over modern communications and hand control of
the Internet over to the owners of the wires that deliver information and services over them.

There are those who claim to oppose the order because Congress should write a new law to deal with broadband communications instead. We are willing and interested in working with our colleagues on modernization of the Communications Act. But that does not mean that the agency should stop doing its job under current law. And we challenge those
opposing the order to produce an alternative framework. In the absence of doing so, we can only conclude the effort is intended to provide for a fully deregulated communications industry placing consumers, entrepreneurship on the Internet, and our basic freedom to
communicate at risk.

For background, after more than a year of examination and deliberation, the FCC -- the agency Congress created in 1934 and reaffirmed in 1996 to provide Americans with fair and equitable access to communications over wire and airwaves -- approved an order to
establish network neutrality ground rules. Those rules, clearly in the public interest, lay down guidelines for how telephone and cable companies can treat information that travels over their wires and connect Americans to the Internet. It very clearly does not regulate
that information any more than the regulation of telephone service regulates what Americans can say to each other or whom they can call or not call.

The final network neutrality rules, to the credit of Chairman Genachowski, are built on things everyone should support - transparency of broadband service operations, no blocking of legal content and websites, and nondiscrimination against or for specific firms or people trying to communicate and compete over the Internet. In the wake of the order, the original investors in Google and Netflix, the father of the Internet Tim Berners-Lee, a host of companies, venture capitalists, and hundreds of thousands of users of the Internet expressed their approval.

Unfortunately, the House has decided that it knows better what is good for the Internet than the people who use, fund, and work on it. They claim to stand for freedom. But the only freedom they are providing for is the freedom of telephone and cable companies to determine the future of the Internet, where you can go on it, what you can attach to
it, and which services will win or lose on it.

Telephone and cable companies do not own the Internet. But if the amendment the House passed is not struck or if their CRA effort is successful, they will.

Sincerely,

Cc:

The Honorable Dan Inouye, Chairman, U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations

The Honorable Thad Cochran, Ranking Member, U.S. Senate Committee on
Appropriations

About The Author

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Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com

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