Republicans try last-minute budget gimmick to stop net neutrality

The FCC‘s net-neutrality rules are expected to take effect on Friday, but Republicans in Congress are still pressing on all fronts to delay the new regulations.

The latest attempt to let Internet providers pick and choose who’s eligible for full-speed service came during the ongoing drafting of the federal budget, known as the appropriations process. Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.), the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, added a rider to his subcommittee’s part of the appropriations bill that prevents the Federal Communications Commission from using its budget to implement net neutrality until a court settles a controversial industry lawsuit against the rules.

House Appropriations Committee

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is considering a request from industry groups and telecom companies to delay the rules’ June 12 start date. Those groups argue that the FCC doesn’t have the authority to issue the rules and that the rules would harm their business. They want the court to delay implementation pending a full hearing.

“This sneak attack on net neutrality would undermine the historic actions the FCC took in February and leave Internet users everywhere defenseless against the cable industry as its spurious legal challenges wind their way through the courts,” said Matt Wood, policy director at Free Press. “Trying to hide such an important measure hundreds of pages into an appropriations bill, on an issue the public overwhelmingly supports, shows why so many people distrust and are disgusted by business in Washington.”

Each subcommittee of the powerful House Appropriations Committee drafts the portion of the budget bill that addresses the agencies under its purview. The FCC falls under the “general government” jurisdiction of Crenshaw’s subcommittee.

Unlike his more stridently anti-net-neutrality colleagues in the House Republican Conference, Crenshaw is not a particularly large recipient of telecom industry donations. His biggest direct supporter among net neutrality opponents is AT&T, which gave his campaign $10,000 in 2014. The political action committee supporting him in 2014 received $11,500 from Comcast, T-Mobile, and two industry groups challenging the net-neutrality rules, CTIA–The Wireless Association and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA).

Photo via Backbone Campaign/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Eric Geller

Eric Geller

Eric Geller is a politics reporter who focuses on cybersecurity, surveillance, encryption, and privacy. A former staff writer at the Daily Dot, Geller joined Politico in June 2016, where he's focused on policymaking at the White House, the Justice Department, the State Department, and the Commerce Department.