Thune hearing to tackle FCC authority over Internet

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, said last week that his committee will hold its first hearing, “Protecting the Internet and Consumers Through Congressional Action,” on Wednesday.

During the hearing, expert witnesses are scheduled to testify on the current state of the Federal Communications Commission and outline the various options Congress can explore to update antiquated laws to correspond with today’s digital age.

“Clear and reasonable rules are what every business and consumer needs and expects,” Thune said. “This also applies to the Internet. The FCC currently has limited options to write rules that escape the uncertainty of litigation while protecting innovation. Clear statutory authority from Congress is necessary to update FCC authority for the Internet Age, escape court challenges, and avoid regulatory overreach from outdated laws.”

The discussion of new policies will address 11 principles for the Internet Age: prohibiting blocking, prohibiting throttling, prohibiting paid prioritization, requiring transparency, applying rules to both landline and wireless, allowing for reasonable network management, allowing for specialized services, protecting consumer choices, classifying broadband Internet access as an information service under the Communications Act, clarification that Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act may not be used as a grant of regulatory authority, and directing the FCC to enforce and abide by these principles.

“Agreement by Congress will require focused and robust discussion,” Thune said, “but (these) 11 principles, I believe, can be the foundation of a bipartisan solution. (Our hearing) will be an opportunity to discuss and gather input from experts on ways Congress can focus on a solution that avoids saddling the Internet with an arcane regulatory framework designed for the monopoly phone era.”