Today, the Senate is expected to vote on legislation that reduces privacy protections that are meant to keep your information safe and returns us to Obama-era net neutrality rules that stifled innovation and investment in rural communities. As this bill moves forward, I wanted to make sure you knew where I stood on it and on Internet freedom issues in general.
This debate isn’t about the merits of an open Internet. I support an open Internet, and I always have, but there is a better way to ensure consumer protections without disrupting the free flow of information and innovation that has made it a cornerstone of the 21st Century economy. I don’t support blocking or throttling content, and there isn’t disagreement about the need for an open Internet that protects consumers. The disagreement is in how we make that happen.
What President Obama and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) did in 2015 was ram through rules, commonly referred to as “net neutrality,” that completely disregarded years of bipartisan work and consensus and allowed an extremely heavy-handed regulatory approach by the FCC. They chose to classify Internet regulation according to a 1934 law that was written to regulate telephone monopolies, generations before the Internet was even imagined. But it’s important to remember that we weren’t seeing blocking or throttling before this change occurred, and we aren’t going to see these unethical practices by going back to the pre-2015 framework. Last December, the new FCC, under President Trump, reversed course on these net neutrality rules, returning us to the way the Internet was governed prior to 2015, a time in which the Internet saw great expansion and competition.
The changes the Senate is voting on will return us to these burdensome net neutrality rules enacted in 2015, and I oppose this Senate bill for a number of reasons. First, it will severely impact privacy protections for you and your family. The Obama-era net neutrality rules created an enforcement gap as it related to privacy, handing over enforcement of privacy regulations to the FCC from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Unfortunately, the FCC is neither equipped nor capable of effectively ensuring consumer privacy and protections. That’s why last year, Congress overturned this change and gave authority back to the FTC, who has been responsible for policing digital privacy and consumer protection across the internet. It also ensured that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like AT&T and Comcast remained on the same regulatory playing field with edge providers like Facebook and Google who slipped through the cracks under Obama-era Internet regulations. The legislation being proposed in the Senate, and expected to be voted on today, will strip the FTC of this jurisdiction and regulations that help ensure your information is safe and secure, making it more difficult to enforce privacy protections on providers like Facebook, Google, Twitter, and others.
Additionally, the heavy-handed net neutrality rules of the Obama administration had many consequences, like discouraging investment by ISPs in rural areas like Eastern Washington, and stifling innovation. In fact, according to a recent economic analysis, domestic broadband capital expansion declined by $3.6 billion in the years since these heavy-handed regulations were implemented, a 5.6 percent decline relative to 2014 levels (before net neutrality was enacted). As a result, plans to deploy new and upgraded broadband infrastructure have been shelved, costing thousands of quality, high-paying jobs. Net neutrality rules hit rural and low-income Americans the hardest and make it more difficult for them to connect to the Internet. That’s why I supported the FCC decision last December to reverse course on these rules and return to how the Internet was governed prior to 2015, a period where we saw the Internet boom and become the economic and cultural force it is today.
Moving forward, I want to put the tech community and ISPs on a level playing field when it comes to protecting consumers. Overreach or rules that are too restrictive hamper investment and reduce consumer choice, as we saw with the Obama-era net neutrality rules. Let’s be clear, we were not seeing ISPs blocking or throttling content prior to net neutrality rules. These rules were a solution in search of a problem. What I want is for everyone to come to the table to find a bipartisan, reasonable solution—one that doesn’t discourage investment in rural communities in Eastern Washington or strip privacy protections and put your information at risk. I believe it’s Congress’s job to come together and reach this bipartisan agreement that sets the rules of the road for the Internet, and I will continue working with my colleagues to do that, but this action in the Senate doesn’t accomplish those goals.
My mission is to restore trust and confidence in representative government, which is why I want to find a bipartisan solution that puts Eastern Washington’s interests first. Follow along on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates about my work for you and your families in Eastern