House Republicans sided with the Trump administration on Tuesday, opposing a bill to reinstate the Federal Communications Commission’s Obama-era net neutrality rules, despite growing support for such a move among consumers.
The bill passed the House 232 to 190, but it is unlikely to make it past the Republican-controlled Senate. Just one House Republican — Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) — voted for the bill.
H.R.1644, the Save the Internet Act of 2019 — authored by Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) — would codify a 2015 FCC policy that ensured that internet providers treat all data requests equally and do not throttle traffic to less-favored sites. President Donald Trump’s handpicked Commission chair Ajit Pai pushed through a repeal of the policy in late 2017.
For consumers, the idea is pretty simple. Under net neutrality, the people who sell you your internet service cannot charge you extra if you want to access Netflix or Hulu at the same speed as you access other sites. And they cannot cut a deal with Amazon to let you access Prime Video at a faster speed than YouTube Premium.
Doyle described his bill as one that would “‘repeal the repeal’” and codify the Open Internet Order. House Republican leaders denounced it as a “government takeover of the internet.”
RT to agree → The Internet doesn’t need saving by Washington. It needs saving FROM Washington.
— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) April 10, 2019
At a Tuesday press conference, Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) made the odd claim that reverting to these rules might somehow lead to an internet tax. “Will this bill allow government taxation of the internet? The answer is yes, we think it will,” he charged.
But not only does the bill include no new provisions allowing new taxes or fees — which Congress could theoretically institute under the current status quo — it actually does the opposite. The bill’s text restores the FCC’s rules to the way they were on January 19, 2017 — a time at which the Commission had said it would not apply additional taxes or fees.
Although congressional Republicans and the Trump administration have fiercely opposed net neutrality, the public is not especially divided on this issue. In fact, polls over the past two years have found that between 78% and 83% of Americans support net neutrality and the Obama-era rules.
A Mozilla/Ipsos poll in April last year also showed 91% of Americans thought consumers “should be able to freely and quickly access their preferred content on the internet.”
“Support for net neutrality is growing,” Mozilla officials wrote in a blog post that year. “When [we] asked this same question in 2017, 86% of Americans believed this.”