The FCC’s new net neutrality rules officially went into effect earlier this month, after a federal judge rejected a flurry of legal challenges from cable and phone companies.
But before the rules even took effect, Republicans in the House of Representatives had already come up with an underhanded way of effectively crippling net neutrality.
On June 10, the day before the new rules became official, House Republicans introduced a seemingly routine appropriations bill (ie. a bill that must be passed in order to continue funding certain parts of the government). But buried on the 158th page of the lengthy appropriations bill was a set of provisions that would prevent the FCC from using government funds to enforce net neutrality.
Republicans argue that the funds the FCC needs to enforce net neutrality ought to be withheld until all of the court battles are resolved. This process could take years, and many supporters of the new regulations say the bill is essentially a death sentence for net neutrality.
After the net neutrality “poison pill” was discovered, two New York legislators — Rep. Jose Serrano and Rep. Nita Lowey — introduced amendments that would have removed the section about FCC funding from the appropriations bill.
“You’re not supposed to legislate in an appropriations bill,” Serrano said, criticizing the Republicans for using questionable tactics in their attempt to handicap net neutrality. Serrano also pointed out that a federal court had already blocked the phone and cable lobby’s attempt to delay implementation of the new rules.
Unfortunately, the House appropriations committee voted against both amendments, bringing the booby-trapped bill one step closer to a full vote before the House.
Serrano expressed his disappointment after the amendments were rejected:
“Maybe every so often we can be on the side of the American people, and not corporations… Blocking Net Neutrality means blocking the open Internet… My colleagues are trying to give corporations more freedom … while putting more restrictions on individual citizens.”
The bill still needs final committee approval before it can be presented for a vote. It would then need to pass in both houses of Congress before President Obama would have to decide whether or not to pass it into law.