Senator Harry Reid Would Support Title II

Looks like Title II, the only authority capable of supporting real net neutrality rules after a court decision in January, is now politically feasible. For months, opponents of Title II suggested that Congress would destroy the FCC if it chose the Title II path. One skeptic of strong net neutrality rules wrote: “Republicans and pro-telco Democrats in Congress will grind the FCC to a standstill, starve its budget, and do everything in their power to inflict permanent harm on the agency.”  Even the FCC Chairman apparently mentioned politics as a reason against Title II.

Since then, over a dozen Senators and dozens of Congressmen (and dozens of companies, investors, and trade associations) have come out strongly for Title II.

And the Majority Leader, Senator Harry Reid, has sent a letter saying that if the FCC does the right thing and stands up a rule under Title II, the Majority Leader would lead the fight to defend the rule.

That’s a far cry from where we were months ago, when one could plausibly claim that the FCC would successfully be defunded and crippled for adopting real net neutrality. In fact, the political arguments were, effectively, that of course the House (controlled by Republicans) would make the FCC Chairman’s life difficult no matter what. Unless the Senate has the Chairman’s back, he couldn’t do anything. That means the Chairman needed to know if Senate Democrats would support him if he pursued Title II and this letter answers that question. Yes.

Kudos to Senator Reid. This is a game changer. It allows us to argue on the merits, rather than have the FCC hide behind their political fears.

From Bloomberg:

Senate Leader Harry Reid Pledges to Support Open-Internet Rules

2014-07-29 21:17:28.128 GMT

By Todd Shields
July 29 (Bloomberg) — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a letter he would support “any Open Internet rules” passed by U.S. regulators, language welcomed by supporters of strict rules opposed by telephone and cable companies.
The pledge gives the Federal Communications Commission political cover to regulate Web services like a utility, rather than relying on less robust rules that allow for so-called fast lanes on the Internet, said David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress, a Takoma Park, Maryland-based policy group that received the letter dated yesterday.
Reid’s support is “a reason for the FCC to move ahead with the strongest rule possible,” Segal said in an interview. Other groups that are urging the FCC to approve rules requiring Internet service providers to treat Web content equally also received the letter from Reid, Segal said.

From Vice:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has given the Federal Communications Commission a much-needed political boost as the agency decides whether to move toward a more robust Open Internet policy favored by many net neutrality advocates.

“First, Reid’s letter undercuts the FCC’s argument that Senate Democrats won’t support a Title II order,” Segal said. “Second, it undercuts the FCC’s argument that there won’t be much of a political fight over a 706 order. Reid makes clear that he expects a political fight either way, and with his backing, now the FCC can decide this issue based on the merits, not on the politics.”

Segal makes a good point. The simple fact is that many Republican lawmakers oppose any kind of net neutrality rules whatsoever, whether issued under the authority of Section 706 or Title II. …

“Here’s why this letter matters,” Aaron told Motherboard. “There’s no longer any question that Tom Wheeler has the political support to do the right thing. And the right thing is reclassifying broadband access providers as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. Senator Reid makes clear that when Wheeler reclassifies that the Senate leadership will have his back.”

From National Journal:

Reid’s letter did not urge the FCC to use its authority under Title II. But he acknowledged that liberal groups are pressing the FCC on the issue and said he would support “any Open Internet rules” the FCC enacts.

David Segal, the executive director of the advocacy group Demand Progress, said the letter shows Senate Democrats will defend the FCC if it uses the Title II option and that Republicans would likely fight the rules no matter what authority the FCC uses.

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