Congressional efforts to restore Obama-era net neutrality protections garnered rare Republican support Tuesday from Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado.
An Army and Marine Corps veteran elected to the House of Representatives in 2008, Mr. Coffman on Tuesday put his weight behind separate efforts on Capitol Hill aimed at reversing the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of the Obama administration’s net neutrality rules, including a petition otherwise supported exclusively by Democrats and a legislative proposal of his own called the 21st Century Internet Act.
If signed by 218 members of the House, the discharge petition would force a vote on a Senate-approved Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution reversing the FCC’s repeal of the net neutrality rules under President Trump. The petition was previously signed by 176 members of the House, all Democrats, and Mr. Coffman on Tuesday became the first Republican in the GOP-controlled chamber to lend his support.
“I hope more Republicans will join this effort and stand on the side of American families who rely on and overwhelmingly support a free and open Internet,” said Sen. Ed Markey, Massachusetts Democrats and the resolution’s sponsor.
Republicans currently hold 236 seats in the House to the 193 held by Democrats, however, giving the petition slim odds of passing unless Mr. Coffman’s GOP colleagues start changing course.
The 21st Century Internet Act, meanwhile, “would permanently codify into law the ‘four corners’ of net neutrality,” Mr. Coffman’s office said in a statement announcing the legislation Tuesday. The bill would prohibit internet service providers from throttling connection speeds and blocking content, and it would also ban paid prioritization while giving the government oversight of interconnection issues involving ISPs and the companies that operate internet infrastructure.
“The fight to keep the Internet open belongs in Congress, not at the Federal Communications Commission,” said Mr. Coffman. “The American people deserve to know that their elected officials, not unelected bureaucrats, are fighting for their interest. That fight begins with my bill, which will create an ‘Internet constitution’ with the foundational elements of net neutrality.”
“While my bill moves through the Congress, I am taking an ‘all of the above’ approach by simultaneously signing the discharge petition on the CRA,” Mr. Coffman added.
Repealed by the Republican-controlled FCC in December under Chairman Ajit Pai, the Obama-era net neutrality rules restrictions prohibited ISPs from prioritizing content, effectively requiring providers to handle all internet traffic equally. The Senate voted 52-47 in May to overturn the repeal by way of advancing the CRA resolution currently being weighed in the House.
“The dam is breaking, as it should,” said Faiz Shakir, national political director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “Rep. Coffman’s support to undo FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s repeal of net neutrality shows that public pressure is continuing to build on this issue and cannot be ignored this November.”