Colorado’s Mike Coffman is first Republican U.S. Rep. to ask FCC to delay vote on net neutrality

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Washington, D.C., December 12, 2017 | comments

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman on Tuesday became the first Republican to urge regulators to delay a vote on net neutrality, which would repeal open internet rules adopted two years ago.

In a letter to Ajit V. Pai, the Federal Communications Commission chairman who proposed the rollback, Coffman said that altering the rules “may well have significant unanticipated negative consequences.” He asked Pai to let Congress hold hearings on the issue and pass open internet laws.

“As you stated in your dissent to the previous FCC’s open Internet proceeding, ‘A dispute this fundamental is not for us, five unelected individuals, to decide. Instead it should be resolved by the people’s elected representatives, those who choose the direction of government — and those whom the American people can hold accountable for that choice,’ ” the Aurora Republican wrote.

In his letter, Coffman did not come out for or against net neutrality. Fellow Colorado U.S. Reps Diana DeGetteJared Polis and Ed Perlmutter — all Democrats — oppose rolling back the rules.  Republican Ken Buck of Windsor supports Pai.

“I support Chairman Pai’s efforts to free internet providers from burdensome regulations that stifle innovation and increase costs for Coloradans,” Buck said in an email.

Other Republicans, including Utah Congressman John Curtis and Sen. Susan Collins from Maine, have expressed concerns but have not asked to delay the vote.

Pai, who became FCC chairman in October and proposed his alternative last month, wants a return to pre-2015, when “the FCC treated high-speed Internet access as a lightly regulated ‘information service’ ” instead of a “heavily regulated ‘telecommunications service,’ ” he wrote.

But net neutrality advocates say a reversal could result in abuse by companies that provide internet service. Internet service providers, or ISPs, would no longer be forced to treat all data the same, which could lead to charging fees to content companies or letting a company such as Comcast prioritize how fast it streams its own TV shows over those from Netflix.

“Removing net neutrality makes it possible for ISPs to charge websites to load for readers and subscribers. They can tell Yelp, ‘You need to pay this a month,’ ” because of Yelp’s bandwidth use, said Ryan Singel, a former Wired writer who covered the topic and is now a fellow at the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School. “It also lets ISPs create fast lanes and slow lanes. Speed matters (for startups). If you have to pay to keep up with Facebook, Google or whatever the incumbent competition is, startups can’t pay for that. But if you’re not fast, you can’t meet your customers’ needs.”

Jay Sudowski, co-founder of data center Handy Networks in Denver, said that without net neutrality, small businesses such as his are terrified about what could happen if a competitor merged with an ISP.

“The implications would be huge and not good if ISPs were allowed to preference traffic to their own cloud services, leaving independent data center operators like ourselves stuck in the digital slow lane,” Sudowski said in an email.

Daniel C. Bucheli, Coffman’s Deputy Chief of Staff/Communications Director, said Coffman wrote the letter after speaking to concerned constituents. He doesn’t know whether it will delay the FCC vote, expected Thursday.

“But he felt it essential that we keep an open internet,” Bucheli said. “Congress should be allowed to weigh in on this. He’d like the public to be able to comment.”

Content originally published by The Denver Post on December 12, 2017.
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