Steven Worona, director of policy and network programs for the higher-education technology group EDUCAUSE, said the net-neutrality rules contain loopholes that one day could lead major internet providers to limit access to campuses that can’t pay premium prices for web service.
“If the rules are not effective in maintaining an open internet, the worst-case scenario is that a bidding war develops to get access to high speed,” Worona said when the rules were passed. “In that type of situation, the deepest pockets have the best chance of accessing their end users. … In that case, it wouldn’t be surprising if smaller schools have more trouble than larger universities.”
The House, where Republicans command a majority, voted last April to repeal the rules, saying the FCC lacked the authority to set internet policy and that there was no need for the federal government to intervene in an already open internet. They said the rules would stifle investment in broadband systems.
The rules, said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, are “a stunning reversal from a hands-off approach to the internet that federal policy makers have taken for more than a decade.”
She brought up the resolution under the Congressional Review Act, which allows lawmakers to challenge regulations issued by federal agencies.
But Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said the resolution was misguided. “It will add uncertainty to the economy. It will hinder small businesses dependent on fair broadband access. It will undermine innovation. It will hamper investment in digital commerce.”
The rules give providers flexibility to manage data to deal with network congestion as long as they publicly disclose those practices. They do not specifically ban higher charges for faster transmission of data, but do outlaw “unreasonable network discrimination.”
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said those trying to overturn the rules say they want to “liberate the internet when, in fact, what they want to do is imprison the internet within the hands of the most powerful communications entities today to act as the gatekeepers.”
Rockefeller and Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., another backer of the FCC rules, cited a letter to the FCC chairman written before the rules were finalized. The letter stated that “a process that results in commonsense baseline rules is critical to ensuring that the internet remains a key engine of economic growth, innovation, and global competitiveness.” Among the signees were the CEOs of Google, Amazon.com, Netflix, Facebook, YouTube, and eBay.