WASHINGTON, January 31, 2024 – More than 60 House Republicans introduced on Wednesday a resolution to block the Federal Communications Commission’s digital discrimination rules.
Filed under the Congressional Review Act, such resolutions are a mechanism for Congress to nullify rules adopted by federal agencies.
Wednesday’s attempt stands little chance of becoming law, as it would ultimately require President Joe Biden’s signature and the administration pushed the FCC to adopt comprehensive policies during the rulemaking process.
The commission was required by the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act to adopt rules preventing gaps in broadband access based on race, income, and other characteristics. Those rules, adopted in November and set to take effect in March, take a “disparate impact” standard for identifying digital discrimination, meaning broadband providers could be in violation even if they are not intentionally withholding adequate internet from a protected group.
FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has said the rules will take “genuine barriers of technical and economic feasibility” into account, as mandated by the infrastructure law, but Republicans and industry groups have not been convinced.
“Yet again, the Biden administration is attempting to push its ideology through heavy-handed government controls,” Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Georgia, one of the resolution’s lead sponsors, said in a statement. “This time, the Federal Communications Commission plans to enact widespread regulations on every aspect of our internet’s functionality.”
The resolution has the support of multiple trade associations who lobbied the commission against the rules, including USTelecom, CTIA, and ACA Connects. That also includes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which officially filed on Wednesday a lawsuit it signaled last week, asking Fifth Circuit judges to vacate the FCC rules.
The FCC’s Democratic commissioners have defended the rules as appropriate to the broad statutory mandate of ensuring equitable broadband access.
“If we were to adopt rules that only covered discriminatory intent, we would fall short of fully meeting our legal obligation to facilitate equal access to broadband,” Rosenworcel said when announcing the rules.
Public interest groups like Public Knowledge and the NDIA also support the digital discrimination rules as a measure to bridge the digital divide – the gap between communities with access to high-speed internet and those without it.
The Los Angeles City Council adopted a regulation preventing broadband pricing discrimination on January 25, directing the city attorney to create a process for submitting digital discrimination complaints to the FCC.