Wicker Opposes Heavy-Handed Regulation of the Internet

Miss. Senator Urges Colleagues to Support New, Bipartisan Legislation to Protect an Open Internet

May 16, 2018

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, today spoke in opposition to efforts by Senate Democrats to reimpose heavy-handed regulation of the internet.

This week, Senate Democrats introduced a Congressional Resolution of Disapproval regarding the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) actions to roll back Obama-era regulations that applied outdated Title II restrictions on internet service providers. Title II refers to a set of laws from the 1930s that give the government the power to regulate how Internet Service Providers operate and what products they can offer to consumers. Wicker has called for updated, bipartisan legislation that enshrines the principles of net neutrality into law without giving the government more power to regulate what Americans can access on the internet.

Wicker remains committed to removing barriers to internet connectivity and closing the digital divide in Mississippi and around the United States.

Remarks as delivered:

Thank you, Mr. President. I have been recognized to close the debate on this motion. In a few moments, we’ll be voting on the motion to proceed to this resolution. I will be voting no and urge my colleagues to do so.

This debate today is about a free and open internet, and it is also about a thriving and innovative internet. Mr. President, we can have both, for decades we have had both, and we can continue to do so if we are smart about this.

Does every senator in this chamber believe in a free and open internet? Yes.

Does every member of this body want to prevent blocking and throttling of the internet? The answer is a resounding yes.

Does any member of the Senate advocate, as my friend from Massachusetts just suggested, that a company or two gets to set the rules for the entire internet? Absolutely not.

Do all senators and all congressmen want the internet to be a source of innovation, and job creation, and prosperity as it has been for a quarter-century? I hope so.

I hope we all want this information superhighway, this technology superhighway, to continue its success.

I hope we all want the internet to continue being that phenomenal platform for market competition, health advancements, investment, technological progress, efficiency, and safety. I hope we all want this.

And if we all want this great engine to keep going, it is important to ask how all this happened in the first place. How did we get here? How did we arrive at this point in our nation’s history with a dynamic internet economy that is truly the envy of the world?

The answer lies in the creativity and ingenuity of the American spirit. This has allowed the internet to thrive under the light-touch regulatory framework that has governed the internet for most of its history.

Let’s revisit a little of that history, Mr. President.

It was in 1996 – I was a freshman member of the House of Representatives at this time – under a Democratic administration, that our country was at a crossroads on how to govern this new thing called the world wide web – the internet. 

No one could have imagined the success of the internet that we have today, but policymakers had the foresight not to regulate these new, emerging information services like the services of a bygone era. 

Instead, in 1996 during the Clinton Administration, a very deliberate and thoughtful decision was made not to impose Title II rules – the same rules from the 1930s that were modeled for the Bell monopolies that were modeled for times during the Great Depression.

That was the pivotal decision that allowed this great internet economy to thrive and to be the success that it is today.

Now, let’s fast forward to 2015. That was the year the FCC made an ill-advised decision to change all that. Despite the explosive growth, new applications and services, and consumer choice that the internet was delivering to Americans, the FCC imposed these Title II rules – and that is what we are debating today. 

Almost immediately, we saw a chilling effect on investment and innovation. U.S. companies were right to be uncertain about the archaic Title II regulations and how they would apply to modern technology. 

Fortunately, this misguided action was reversed.  Last year, the FCC lifted the 2015 regulations and restored the light-touch regulatory framework that has benefited consumers for almost two decades and has resulted in this great success. 

Today, some in Congress are trying to give the government more control again, applying utility-style regulations that would threaten the internet as we know it. We should reject these efforts.

Many of my colleagues correctly, on both sides of the aisle, have been calling for bipartisan legislation to enshrine the net neutrality principles into law - legislation which I support – legislation which members of the minority party have supported.

If this resolution passes today, it will amount to a statement – merely nothing more.

Senator Thune will give senators an opportunity to pass bipartisan legislation. I hope we will do that. And I hope once this statement is made, we will move on to enshrining net neutrality principles into a law that protects consumers and promotes innovation.

Thank you.