Wicker, Thune Statement on Net Neutrality Decision

January 14, 2014

WASHINGTONSenate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Ranking Member John Thune (R-S.D.) and Communications, Technology, and the Internet Subcommittee Ranking Member Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) released the following comment on today’s decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that struck down part of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) controversial 2010 net neutrality rules:

“We have consistently said the Obama Administration’s FCC exceeded its legal authority by imposing unnecessary and unjustified net neutrality regulations. We are pleased the D.C. Circuit, in striking down the FCC’s net neutrality restrictions, recognized that traditional monopoly-era telecommunications regulation does not apply to the modern, competitive, and open Internet. We are, however, troubled that the court appears to have simultaneously granted the FCC, in the words of Senior Circuit Judge Silberman, ‘virtually unlimited power to regulate the Internet’ under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act. In Judge Silberman’s partial dissent, he cites the court’s prior rejection of the FCC’s overreach and notes that the majority opinion regarding Section 706 ‘would virtually free the Commission from its congressional tether.’

“The uncertain and potentially boundless authority the court has now found must be addressed by Congress. The Communications Act is woefully out of date, and it is time for Congress to provide a road map to clarify the FCC’s role in the 21st Century communications landscape. The last thing consumers need is for the FCC to waste more time and money on misguided efforts to regulate the Internet.

“During his confirmation process, FCC Chairman Wheeler publicly committed that he would come to Congress for direction before pursuing any new net neutrality rules, and we call on Chairman Wheeler to honor his commitment.”

Below is a question submitted in writing by Ranking Member Thune to FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler, along with Chairman Wheeler’s written response, in connection with Chairman Wheeler’s confirmation hearing on June 18, 2013.

Sen. Thune: Please answer yes or no—if you are confirmed and if the FCC’s Open Internet order is struck down in the courts, will you come to Congress for more direction before attempting another iteration of network neutrality rules?

Mr. Wheeler:  Yes.