Texas conservative Sen. Ted Cruz (R) said in a statement on Tuesday that the Federal Communications Commission should be stripped of its ability to regulate net neutrality.
"Congress, not an unelected commission, should take the lead" on Internet policy, he said.
Matt Wood, policy director for the Internet freedom group Free Press, told Raw Story that Cruz's suggestions about the law are based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the situation, and that the lawmaker's proposal would make Internet freedom vulnerable to the interests of powerful corporations like AT&T and Comcast.
After years of wrangling over whether Internet providers could create so-called "fast lanes" for their content, the FCC bunted on Thursday. The regulatory commission passed "Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet," a set of preliminary rules meant to protect net neutrality, but leaving broad swaths of policy open-ended and asking for public discussion.
Activists on all sides of the question have made their cases for weeks. Internet Service Providers and their supporters like Cruz would like to keep regulations off the books altogether, allowing the companies to set their own policies with regards to broadband. They argue that the FCC doesn't have the jurisdiction to impose rules on ISPs.
"The FCC's latest adventure in 'net neutrality' would stifle innovation and subject the Internet to nanny-state regulation from Washington," said Cruz's statement on Tuesday. "Internet freedom has produced robust free speech for billions and a wide-open incubator for entrepreneurs to generate jobs and expand opportunity."
Cruz is making an Orwellian argument, here, saying that he is in favor of the very thing that the ISPs are attempting to restrict. To date, the Internet has operated with open and equal access for everyone.
With the "paid prioritization" policies that Cruz supports, premium operating speeds would be only be available to the highest bidders.
"A 5-member panel at the FCC should not be dictating how Internet services will be provided to millions of Americans," Cruz continued. He then touted a bill he and other Republicans are sponsoring which would strip the FCC of the power to regulate the Internet altogether.
"I will be introducing legislation that would remove the claimed authority for the FCC to take such actions, specifically the Commission's nebulous Sec. 706 authority," Cruz said. "Congress, not an unelected commission, should take the lead on modernizing our telecommunications laws. The FCC should not endanger future investments by stifling growth in the online sector, which remains a much-needed bright spot in our struggling economy."
Free Press' Matt Wood said in a statement to Raw Story that Cruz has it exactly backwards. The FCC is obligated under Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1996's "common carrier" laws to ensure fair Internet access.
"Senator Cruz is mistaken about the notion that the FCC is changing the law," Wood wrote. "In fact, Net Neutrality and Title II are the law. These nondiscrimination principles are precisely what Congress intended for our essential broadband communications infrastructure. The FCC has too long ignored the correct path to preserving open Internet access, and it must return to that path now. Internet freedom is indeed essential for everyone. That's why we need rules to prevent companies like Verizon, AT&T and Comcast from curtailing that freedom, or deciding how we express ourselves and what we do online."