By K.D. Norris
U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich. District 2) often disagree on topics, sometimes through intermediaries such as occurs at the monthly local Government Matters meetings. So it is no surprise that the two local federal government leaders take very different views on the Federal Communications Commission’s vote last week to abolish so-called “net neutrality” rule.
The Federal Communications Commission voted Dec. 14, to repeal rules it had established in 2015 under President Barrack Obama’s tenure which regulated broadband businesses, including cable television providers, that connect consumers to the internet.
The agency scrapped net neutrality regulations that prohibited broadband providers from blocking websites or charging for higher-quality service or certain content. The federal government will also no longer regulate high-speed internet delivery as if it were a utility, like phone services.
Peters, in supplied material, blasted the decision; Huizenga supported the FCC action. Couriousily, however, both seem to say the final decision should rest with federally elected officials.
“Today’s FCC vote to scrap net neutrality protections is an anti-consumer decision that disadvantages small businesses and everyday internet users,” Peters said in a statement issued Dec. 14. “This action could usher in a two-tiered internet, where large corporations that can pay for a fast lane have the power to slow down or block content, and consumers and small businesses are relegated to the slow lane.”
But Huizenga, during an interview on West Michigan’s WHTC radio just prior to the FCC action, said “The Obama Administration literally went back to 1930s utility law that was set up to regulate Ma Bell, which doesn’t even exist, and then layer that onto the internet.
“That is not how we got a dynamic internet, how we got a free and open internet. So this is completely the wrong direction to go. … (with) the FCC is regulating it, it is the wrong place to be doing this. It previously had been under the Federal Trade Commission, and the Obama Administration wanted to put the government in control of the internet. That, to me, seems to be a mistake.”
Both Peters and Huizenga say they believe their opposing point-of-view is based on what is best for a “free and open internet”.
A Dec. 15 statement to WKTV from the Brian Patrick, Huizenga’s communication director, said: “It was President Bill Clinton working with a Republican congress that created a light touch regulatory structure for the internet which led to the greatest engine of innovation and commerce the world has ever seen. Congressman Huizenga believes the entire internet ecosystem, including tech companies, edge providers, and ISPs, should be held to the same standards when it comes to ensuring a free and open internet for consumers.”
Peters sees a free and open internet differently.
“We live in an increasingly interconnected world where a free and open internet has never been more important to Michigan’s economic success. Michigan families and small businesses rely on net neutrality protections to ensure they can achieve their goals — whether it’s reaching customers in new markets, accessing educational opportunities or connecting with loved ones around the globe. Net neutrality levels the playing field, and without these protections, consumers and entrepreneurs will face unnecessary hurdles to the economic opportunities the internet provides.”
However, both Peters and Huizenga also say the issue should be decided by federal action if not new legislation.
“In response to today’s decision, Senator Peters joined his colleagues in announcing a plan to introduce a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution that would reverse today’s FCC action and restore the agency’s 2015 net neutrality rules,” the statement from Peters’ office stated. “CRA resolutions allow Congress to overturn regulatory actions at federal agencies with a simple majority vote in both chambers.”
While Huizenga said, also from the WHTC interview, “I believe Congress does need to be involved in this. I have been and will continue to be so, as an advocate for making sure we have a free and open internet.”