TR Daily House Passes Save the Internet Act on Largely Party-Line Vote
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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

House Passes Save the Internet Act on Largely Party-Line Vote

The House today voted 232-190 to approve the Save the Internet Act (HR 1644) with amendments that would require Government Accountability Office reports on broadband competition, the granularity of FCC broadband mapping, and the ways the government can promote broadband deployment; direct the FCC to engage with tribal stakeholders on broadband deployment; require accuracy in FCC broadband deployment reports; and affirm that net neutrality rules do not prevent the blocking or removing of unlawful content.

Only one Republican, Rep. Bill Posey (Fla.), supported passage of the bill.

The White House has issued a statement staying the President Trump’s advisers would recommend he veto the bill if it arrives on his desk (TR Daily, April 8), but the odds of that happening appear slim, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), who controls the floor calendar in the Republican-controlled Senate, has said the bill would be “dead on arrival” in that chamber.

The Save the Internet Act would rescind the FCC’s 2017 restoring Internet freedom (RIF) order and restore the agency’s 2015 open Internet order. The amendment in the nature of a substitute (AINS) adopted by the House added language to the original version of the bill stating that any decisions to forbear from provisions of the Communications Act or an FCC regulation that were made in the 2015 order would be permanent. The AINS also added a one-year exemption from the 2015 order’s enhanced transparency provision for broadband Internet access service providers (ISPs) with 100,000 or fewer subscribers, and would require the FCC to report to Congress within 180 days on whether it recommends that the exemption be made permanent.

The amendments approved today on voice vote included one offered by Rep. Sharice Davids (D., Kan.), which would require GAO within one year of enactment to report on the FCC’s efforts to assess competition in the wireline and wireless broadband Internet access markets, on ways the FCC could better assess competition, and on any steps the FCC could take “to increase competition among providers of broadband Internet access service … in the market.”

The House approved by voice vote an amendment offered by Rep. Greg Stanton (D., Ariz.) that would direct the FCC to “engage with and obtain feedback from Tribal stakeholders and providers of broadband Internet access service … on the effectiveness of the Commission’s obligation to consult with Indian Tribes to determine whether the Commission needs to clarify the Commission’s Tribal engagement statement and ensure accessible and affordable broadband Internet access service … in the Tribal lands and areas through the engagement and outreach.”

The House passed by voice vote an amendment offered by Rep. David Trone (D., Md.) to prohibit the FCC from releasing an annual report on broadband deployment, pursuant to section 706 of the Communications Act, “based on broadband deployment data that the Commission knows to be inaccurate.” It also would direct the FCC to “use its best efforts to accurately detail broadband deployment in the United States and correct inaccuracies in statements made by the Commission prior to the release of a report about the report.”

In March, Free Press urged the FCC to withhold release of the 2019 report until revisions are made to reflect corrections of errors in data reported by a new Form 477 filer (TR Daily, March 8). FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has told reporters that he couldn’t say when the section 706 report he circulated to his fellow Commissioners in February (TR Daily, Feb. 19) might be released because the agency is looking into the matter of the erroneous data (TR Daily, March 21).

The House approved by voice vote an amendment offered by Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D., N.Y.) to require GAO to report within one year of enactment on way the federal government can “promote the deployment of broadband Internet access service, especially the buildout of such service to rural areas and areas without access to such service at high speeds.” The GAO report would also have to include “recommendations with respect to policies and regulations to ensure rural areas are provided affordable access to broadband Internet access service.”

The House approved by voice vote an amendment offered by Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D., Va.) to require GAO to report within one year of enactment on “the accuracy and granularity” of the FCC’s broadband maps and on any program or action restored by the restoration of the 2015 open Internet order that rely on the broadband maps. The GAO would also be directed to recommend ways that the FCC can produce more accurate maps.

In addition to the amendments approved on voice vote, the House today also approved on roll-call votes two amendments debated yesterday and one debated today.

The sole amendment offered and debated today that was approved on a roll-call vote was offered by Rep. Ben McAdams (D., Utah). It would affirm that the Save the Internet Act and the restoration of the 2015 open Internet order would not prohibit ISPs from blocking unlawful content, such as child pornography or copyright-infringing materials.

Rep. McAdams emphasized that the amendment doesn’t obligate ISPs to determine what content is unlawful.

Rep. Mike Doyle (D., Pa.), the sponsor of the Save the Internet Act and the chairman of the House communications and technology subcommittee, requested a roll-call vote on the McAdams amendment.

The vote to adopt the McAdams amendment was 423 to 0.

Rep. Doyle had requested roll-call votes on two amendments offered yesterday by Democrats Antonio Delgado of New York and Jennifer Wexton of Virginia, and those votes were postponed until today (TR Daily, April 9).

Rep. Delgado’s amendment would direct the GAO within one year of enactment to report on the benefits to consumers of standalone Internet offerings and to recommend “legislation to increase the availability of standalone broadband internet access service to consumers, particularly those living in rural areas.”

The vote to approve the Delgado amendment was 363 to 60, with 132 Republicans voting in favor of the amendment.

Rep. Wexton’s amendment would require the FCC to submit to Congress within 30 days of enactment “a plan for how the Commission will evaluate and address problems with the collection on Form 477 of data regarding the deployment of broadband Internet access service.”

The vote to adopt the Wexton amendment was 376 to 46, with 145 Republicans voting in favor.

In addition to the amendments adopted today, the House yesterday approved on voice vote two Republican and two Democratic amendments that would require a GAO report on “the virtuous cycle of the internet ecosystem,” an FCC submission of the list of rules forborne by the 2015 order, a GAO report on the importance of the open Internet rules to vulnerable communities, and an FCC report on “all enforcement actions taken by the Commission under the [reinstated 2015 net neutrality] rules” (TR Daily, April 9).

House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking minority member Greg Walden (R., Ore.) repeatedly claimed the time in opposition during debates over the Democratic amendments, only to say he was not opposed to the amendment. Instead, he focused on the defects Republicans see in the underlying bill and Democrats’ rejections of Republican amendments in committee that would have corrected those perceived defects, such as risks of a future FCC taking over 5G networks, regulating broadband Internet access rates, or imposing new Internet taxes and fees.

Rep. Doyle said that “the only effort for government takeover” of 5G networks is a proposal that surfaced early last year of a proposal from within the Trump administration for the U.S. government to build a nationwide 5G network that is secure against hackers and ensures that the U.S. effectively competes against China in the Internet of things ecosystem (TR Daily, Jan. 29, 2018). The proposal was included in slides and a memo leaked to the news media.

Rep. Walden noted that he has opposed the idea of a government-owned 5G network.

Rep. Doyle noted that “as recently as yesterday the president and his campaign were talking about nationalizing 5G,” and that if Mr. Walden thinks “the president’s idea to nationalize 5G is a bad idea, … perhaps it’s time to stand up on the House floor.”

Rep. Walden responded, “The only effort to nationalize 5G and to regulate it is in this bill.” He added, “The president never said he was going to nationalize 5G. Someone leaked a memo out of the White House that proposed that. I opposed that the same day.”

More recently, Kayleigh McEnany, national press secretary for Mr. Trump’s 2020 campaign, touted the benefit of a national wholesale 5G network (TR Daily, March 4).

During the debate ostensibly over Rep. Stanton’s tribal broadband amendment, Rep. Walden suggested that his proposal to expand the exemption from net neutrality enhanced transparency requirements for ISPs from one year to five years and from ISPs with no more than 100,000 subscribers to ISPs with no more than 250,000 subscribers would enable them to focus resources on broadband deployment by eliminating “onerous reporting” requirements.

During debate on the Trone section 706 report amendment, Rep. Doyle noted that “the FCC hasn’t even corrected a press release” on the report that relied on the inaccurate Form 477 data.

Rep. Walden said, “If people are lying about their data, then we should hold them accountable.”

During debate over the Spanberger GAO mapping report amendment, Rep. Walden said he was concerned about possible conflict between that amendment and the Wexton amendment for the FCC to submit a plan on improving its broadband data within 30 days of enactment.

Rep. Doyle responded, “We need to get the FCC to get on this as soon as possible, but we need the GAO’s report too.” However, he added, “I understand what the gentleman is saying.”

During debate on the McAdams unlawful content amendment, Rep. Walden suggested that the proposal of such an amendment implies that there is ambiguity in the underlying bill, given that the amendment reiterates language from the 2015 order. He also said that the 2015 order did not forbear from content-related provisions in section 223 of Title II.

“You’re opening the door under section 223 and section 201 for regulation of speech on the Internet,” he said.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) came to the floor during the debate over Rep. Stanton’s tribal broadband amendment to ask, “What have the Democrats done with their new majority? … Today we were supposed to debate the Democrats’ shell budget, but Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi [D., Calif.] pulled it. … Today we debate another bill that is not going to pass the Senate.” —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]

MainStory: FederalNews Congress NetNeutrality

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