Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette Plans to Co-Sponsor Bill to Restore Net Neutrality

Dec 21, 2017
In The News

From Colorado Politics

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, a Democrat from Denver, plans to co-sponsor a bill next month to reverse last week’s administrative decision that eliminated net neutrality.

Net neutrality was a rule requiring internet service providers to treat all internet data the same.

In other words, Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and other internet service providers could not charge differently by user, content or website. They also were banned from slowing down or speeding up access to some internet content based on preferential status.

Net neutrality was supposed to be guaranteed by the Obama administration’s 2015 Open Internet Order.

The Federal Communications Commission issued an order last week that eliminated net neutrality. Instead, access to the internet would be based on users’ ability to pay, which critics say would give an unfair advantage to the largest corporations. Now a coalition of Democrats plan to fight back.

“We plan to introduce legislation probably in January to disapprove of the FCC ruling,” DeGette told Colorado Politics. “What that would do is it would be to take it back to the standards that were in effect before that ruling.”

DeGette is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has authority over commercial issues such as the internet.

Details of the bill she plans to co-sponsor are being worked out with Rep. Mike Doyle, a Democrat on the subcommittee on communications and technology.

The first effort to reverse the FCC order came this week from Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., whose bill would prohibit internet service providers from blocking or slowing internet traffic.

Other efforts are coming from state attorneys general and consumer groups who say they will sue the FCC to force a return to net neutrality. The first lawsuits are expected to be filed in federal courts next month.

DeGette said the FCC’s ruling creates a special threat for Colorado because of its large technology industry. Many of the tech jobs are concentrated in the computer industry and the internet.

The technology association CompTIA estimated this year that 196,651 workers in Colorado are employed in the tech industry, ranking 14th among the 50 states. Together they account for about 11.5 percent, or $36.2 billion, of the state’s economy.

Repeal of net neutrality “would impact a lot of the wonderful entrepreneurs in Colorado,” particularly when they are trying to accumulate the money to start new businesses, DeGette said.

“I think it could be a real risk for the new economy we‘re seeing,” she said.

She described net neutrality as the top concern among her constituents who call her offices in Denver and Washington.

“One day the callers calling in here actually crashed our phone system,” she said.

Her views in favor of net neutrality are shared by the other three Democratic members of Colorado’s delegation to Congress. The five Republicans in the delegation either oppose net neutrality or say Congress should have been given influence over the policy before the FCC repealed it last week.

Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, was one of numerous Republican lawmakers who urged the FCC in a letter last week to replace net neutrality with what they called “internet freedom.”

“This proposal is a major step forward in the effort to clear the way for the substantial investment necessary to advance our internet architecture for the next generation and close the digital divide,” the letter signed by Lamborn said. “When its effects are fully realized, more Americans than ever will experience the benefits of telemedicine, distance learning, streaming video and future innovations made possible by broadband.”

Colorado’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet of Denver took an opposite approach in a letter he wrote to the FCC last week.

He said rescinding net neutrality “would undermine the fundamental promise of the internet, which has enabled economic growth and entrepreneurship, as well as the free exchange of ideas essential to our democracy.”


--By Tom Ramstack