FCC Commissioner Asks Congress To Slash Agency’s Budget For Enforcing Net Neutrality

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque - RTR4UOBN

Giuseppe Macri Tech Editor
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A Federal Communications Commissioner long-opposed to the net neutrality stance adopted in new regulations by the agency last month asked Congress Tuesday to cut FCC funding necessary to enforce the new rules.

“Congress should forbid the commission from using any appropriated funds to implement or enforce the plan the FCC just adopted to regulate the Internet,” Commissioner Ajit Pai said in a prepared statement before Congress. “Not only is this plan bad policy; absent outside intervention, the commission will expend substantial resources implementing and enforcing regulations that are wasteful, unnecessary, and affirmatively detrimental to the American public.”

Pai and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler appeared before a House budget committee to testify on the agency’s new rules, which regulate Internet service providers similar to public utilities under Title II-style authority derived from the 1996 Telecommunications Act. Under the regulations, ISPs are banned from blocking content or setting up faster, higher-cost lanes of web traffic for Internet content creators like Netflix.

Opponents including Pai and fellow Republican FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly — the only two on the five member commission to vote against the rules — say that the authority to regulate service rates and other aspects of the industry included in the rules threaten to stifle ISP network growth and innovation. (RELATED: Congress Questions FCC Chief About ‘Secret Meetings’ With White House Over Net Neutrality)

To combat the regulations, Pai asked the committee to revoke the FCC funding necessary to enforce the new rules.

“This is a costly endeavor for the agency, one that will end the permissionless innovation that has spurred the Internet’s explosive growth up until today,” Pai said.

“Heavy-handed regulation does not come cheap,” Pai added. “The FCC has already wasted millions of dollars developing these regulations, and we are on course to waste millions more.”

Wheeler defended his agency’s budget request and the new rules, citing Verizon Wireless’s intent last year to throttle customers with unlimited data plans. Netflix has also paid more to both Verizon and AT&T for faster download speeds.

“Since 1994, our financial return to the government has equaled 13 times our combined operational costs,” Wheeler said, noting the agency secured $41 billion in its recent airwave auction for broadcasters. “For every dollar generated by the FCC, our agency uses only eight cents for its operations.”

The agency is asking Congress for $388 million in general spending authority, up from $339.8 million requested for the previous fiscal year — an increase Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune said “raises eyebrows” during a hearing last week.

“[P]articularly when American households continue to do more with less in this stagnant economy,” Thune said. (RELATED: FCC Confirms New Net Neutrality Rules Give Government Control Over Internet Rates)

A significant portion of the funding would go to relocating the agency’s headquarters from Southwest Washington, according to The Hill.

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