First Republican Congressman Breaks With Party Over Upcoming FCC Net Neutrality Vote

Colorado's Republican Congressman 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 Pai, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman who proposed the changes, Coffman said altering the rules “may well have significant unanticipated negative consequences.” He requested Pai 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'", the Colorado Republican quoted in his letter.

'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.’ ”

In his letter, Coffman neither endorsed nor opposed net neutrality.

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

Pai, who joined the Trump administration as 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,’ ” Pai wrote.

Prior to his role as FCC chairman for the Trump administration, Pai worked as a lawyer for Verizon who could potentially profit from a repeal of net neutrality.

But net neutrality proponents say a lack of net neutrality results in abuse by companies that provide internet service as evidenced by countries without it. Internet service providers (ISPs) are required to treat all data the same under net neutrality. Without it a company such as Comcast can prioritize how fast it streams its own TV shows over those from Netflix. ISPs can even restrict which websites customers see based on what they pay every month.

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, 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.”

If Pai’s plans continue, then companies or customers able to pay more will get freer, faster, more inclusive internet service. This could further divide socioeconomic classes in America, with one class rich in money and information while the other remains poor in both. And knowledge is power.

Those advocating net neutrality remain unchanged by Pai and the FCC include human rights organizations, consumer advocates, and most of the public, about 77% of Americans.

It appears Congressman Coffman recognized that those 77% of Americans are the people who can keep or remove him, and other Republicans, from office in 2018.

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