On Tuesday, December 12, in an open letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai, U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman asked that regulators delay a December 14 vote that would likely repeal internet regulations which went into effect in 2015. His letter expressed concern over the “negative consequences” of repealing regulations, and asked that Congress instead be allowed weigh in. It was the first instance of a congressional Republican asking that the FCC delay their Thursday vote.
In part, Coffman wrote to Pai: “Any actions you may take to alter the rules under which [the internet] functions may well have significant unanticipated negative consequences. Therefore, I urge you to delay your upcoming vote and provide Congress with the opportunity to hold hearings on the net neutrality issue and to pass permanent Open Internet legislation.”
Net neutrality regulation, which has become an increasingly topical political issue over the past several months, was put in place by the Obama administration in an effort to prevent high-speed internet service providers (ISPs) like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon from slowing down the delivery of certain websites, or charging customers for high-speed access on certain pages. Under net neutrality regulations, all websites are to be treated equally (in terms of visibility and speed) by ISPs.
However, when net neutrality rules were enacted in 2015, the issue was not brought before Congress and instead the decision was voted on by the FCC commission, which at the time was chaired by Tom Wheeler, a Democrat. The commission, now chaired by a Trump administration appointee who favors deregulation, plans to vote tomorrow to repeal net neutrality in much the same way it was enacted.
Coffman does not think the FCC commission should be rendering a decision on an issue for which there have not been congressional hearings. “I believe Congress can find the right balance of light touch regulatory authority while celebrating the same open Internet protections that exist today,” he wrote to Chairman Pai.
By Wednesday morning, Coffman had apparently received no response from Pai and tweeted at the chairman:
Thanks for the update Chairman @AjitPaiFCC….. however, I am still awaiting a response to my letter yesterday on #NetNeutrality. My staff has called your @FCC office and received no answer. Wonder why people are a bit upset? https://t.co/u9KeJVoe56
— Rep. Mike Coffman (@RepMikeCoffman) December 13, 2017
While Coffman’s letter does not take a firm stance regarding net neutrality regulations—and instead just advocates for congressional hearings—Colorado’s Democratic Reps. Diana DeGette, Jared Polis, and Ed Perlmutter all oppose repealing the regulations, while Republican Ken Buck supports the repeal, according to the Denver Post. At press time, a spokesman for Rep. Coffman had not returned 5280’s request for comment on the “significant unanticipated negative consequences” the congressman wrote about in his letter to the FCC.