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Republicans move to gut FCC and crush its net neutrality crusade with paralyzing budget rules

US broadband watchdog quietly targeted in new proposals

A new budget proposal would effectively bar the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from enforcing its net neutrality provisions.

Buried deep within the House Appropriations Committee budget proposal [PDF] is a set of new rules that limit the FCC's ability to use its funds for activities including the regulation of "prices, other fees, or data caps and allowances" for broadband internet providers.

Additionally, the budget proposal calls for the regulator to be blocked from enforcing any of the rules it laid out in its February 2015 order on open internet access until a handful of court cases filed by telecom groups challenging the FCC rules can be resolved.

The provisions would effectively paralyze efforts by the Democrat-leaning FCC to enforce any of the open internet rules it passed last year, a goal that many House Republicans have been seeking to accomplish for some time, arguing that the FCC's red-tape is an unneeded incursion by the government into the private sector.

The bill also aims to bar the FCC from setting up any network of its own, with the exception of a network that "blocks the viewing, downloading, and exchanging of pornography."

The bill still, however, faces opposition. Even if the House passes the budget recommendations in a floor vote, President Obama would be able to veto the changes – though striking down an entire budget proposal would likely be more difficult than simply vetoing a single bill.


Should the FCC manage to avoid castration at the hands of the House, the commission looks to be pushed to act on the "zero rating" content controversy, thanks to a petition that was submitted earlier this week.

In an open letter to the FCC, a group of signatories including Reddit, Kickstarter, Mozilla and Yelp asks that the commission step in and rule on the practice of ISPs and mobile carriers exempting select streaming services from having their content count toward customer data caps.

"In the time since the Order was released, ISPs have created a broad enough set of test cases that a decision on each of them would have much the same effect as a new rule, only without the same public participation and transparency," the letter reads.

"Making decisions on these cases would set precedents for future practices, and would have implications for the internet ecosystem that reach far beyond the stakeholders directly affected by these individual plans."

The letter goes on to ask that the FCC open a public process to decide whether it will allow carriers to continue to zero-rate content. ®

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