The Federal Communications Commission’s vote to roll back rules on net neutrality Thursday drew mixed reactions from two of Gwinnett’s three congressmen.
U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., was among the list of people, businesses and groups, who spoke out against the decision after it was made by arguing it closed off some access to the Internet and limiting innovation. U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., praised the decision though while arguing that the FCC’s action would actually help innovation.
“An open Internet means access to all content and applications regardless of origin with no favoring of one source over another or any type of blocking or filtering,” Johnson said. “Openness is what drives growth and competition. Blocking content stifles innovation and creativity. Openness embraces our core value as Americans: equality of opportunity. Openness is who we are and what we are about.”
One argument opponents of the rollback have made is that it could lead to Internet users having to pay for traditionally free services, such as e-mail. Others have expressed fears that Internet providers could be freed to choose what types of content users can have access to.
Hice, in countering that argument, said opponents had spread “many myths and mischaracterizations” about what would come from the FCC’s decision to revert back to rules in place before 2015.
“These Obama-era regulations have empowered unelected bureaucrats to micromanage the ways in which private companies direct their networks, hurting innovation and stifling infrastructure investment in rural, underserved areas,” he said.
Hice’s comments echo those from the FCC, which painted the decision as a move to “restore Internet Freedom,” by repealing what it deemed a “heavy-handed” regulation that the federal agency put in place two years ago. The agency said that regulation put a utility-style system in place for broadband Internet.
“In place of that heavy-handed framework, the FCC is returning to the traditional light-touch framework that was in place until 2015,” the agency said in a statement released after the decision. “Moreover, the FCC today also adopted robust transparency requirements that will empower consumers as well as facilitate effective government oversight of broadband providers’ conduct.”
Both congressmen want to see Congress take up issues involving the Internet in light of the FCC’s decision.
“With today’s FCC vote, I hope my colleagues in Congress will come together to revise current law to meet the needs of the modern Internet by ensuring consumer protections, advancing our Internet infrastructure for the next generation, and spurring innovation to close the digital divide,” Hice said.
Johnson said: “History will not be kind to those who turned their backs on freedom and created rules today that quash an open Internet. Should the opportunity arise, I am open to working on a legislative solution that keeps the interests of the American people paramount.”
Gwinnett’s other congressman, Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Ga., and Georgia’s U.S. senators did not immediately release statements after news broke about the decision.