Democrats in Congress are attempting to push through misguided legislation that would undo worthwhile, recent reforms at the Federal Communications Commission and restore harmful Internet regulations. While we do need a permanent legislative solution to protect net neutrality, this effort to reinstate government control of the Internet is the wrong approach.

The current effort, proposed by Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, would return the Internet to the heavy-handed regulatory approach of the Obama Administration, which decreased investment, threatened broadband expansion in rural America, and stifled the creative experimentation that allowed the Internet to thrive and flourish unfettered for the first 20 years of its existence.

To keep the Internet free and open for all Mainers, Congress must instead pass a bipartisan bill that cements the fundamental principles of net neutrality while guarding against unnecessary federal interference in the free market. Sen. Susan Collins should make this a priority and work with her colleagues on both sides of the aisle to come up with a real solution.

Net neutrality is not a controversial issue. Nearly everyone supports the core principles — that consumers should be able to use and access any lawful part of the Internet without Internet providers doing anything to block, slow down, or discriminate against traffic or data being sent through their networks. What is at issue, however, is how we go about ensuring these common sense net neutrality protections without stifling the investment and innovation that drives technological advances.

The Obama Administration’s approach — to move oversight of the Internet from Title I to Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, redefining it as a utility under heavy federal government regulation — was a nonsensical, anti-free market “solution” in search of a problem. For two decades, the Internet grew and thrived under the light regulatory touch of Title I, leading to a proliferation of new technologies, services and products that were once unimaginable.

Then suddenly in 2015, Obama-appointed FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler decided to reverse two decades of smart policy and set the agency on course to regulate the Internet under a much more restrictive public utility model. According to current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, the U.S. experienced its first-ever decline in broadband investment not related to a recession as a result. Investment in our nation’s broadband networks is down five percent over the past two years.


This has serious implications for our economy and broadband expansion — especially in rural regions throughout Maine. Depressed investment in Internet infrastructure makes it harder to expand broadband in those rural and remote areas. Fortunately, Chairman Pai carefully reviewed and repealed those burdensome utility regulations late last year.

Now Democrats in Congress are pursuing legislation that would undo Chairman Pai’s efforts and reinstate government control over the Internet. If successful, their deeply flawed idea — exercising the Congressional Review Act — could have serious consequences and widen the digital divide between urban and rural parts of the country by re-imposing harmful regulations.

Sen. Collins should oppose this legislation and instead work on crafting a truly bipartisan, forward-thinking solution that recognizes the Internet for the economic powerhouse it is. Trying to shoehorn the Internet into a regulatory model first established for the telephone industry more than 80 years ago demonstrates more than just a lack of understanding of the power of the free market — it represents an unprecedented government overreach into the basic functions of the Internet.

To encourage companies to continue making long-term investments in our broadband infrastructure — and to help increase competition, lower costs, and improve access for all Americans — Congress must pass legislation that codifies net neutrality protections while allowing the Internet to continue growing and expanding.

A legislative solution would also help ensure we don’t have to go through the rigmarole of constantly revisiting how to best govern the Internet every time a new administration comes into power. No matter which party has control in Washington, our net neutrality rules and consumer protections should remain the same. Only legislation that codifies widely-agreed upon open Internet principles can ensure this.

Rep. Nathan Wadsworth, R-Hiram, is the ranking House Republican on the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee and represents Maine House District 70.

Nathan Wadsworth

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