Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who has tried to overturn net neutrality rules and help states impose limits on municipal broadband, will be the new chairperson of a Congressional telecommunications subcommittee.
Blackburn will chair the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, committee leadership announced yesterday. She’ll take over from Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), another frequent critic of the Federal Communications Commission who was recently selected by fellow Republicans to become chair of the full Energy and Commerce Committee.
Blackburn has consistently tried to unravel FCC attempts to regulate broadband providers. In 2015, she filed legislation titled the “Internet Freedom Act” to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s then-new network neutrality rules that prohibit blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization. The net neutrality rules still remain in effect, but Republicans are expected to attack the rules again under President-elect Donald Trump. Blackburn has claimed that the FCC’s net neutrality order is an attempt to “set all the rates” that broadband providers charge for Internet service, even though the FCC hasn’t tried to do that and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said he had no intention of doing so.
Blackburn has also worked to preserve laws in about 20 states that make it difficult for cities and towns to offer their own broadband Internet services. She filed legislation to prevent the FCC from preempting such state laws, saying, “I strongly believe in states’ rights.” After the FCC went ahead with the proposal anyway, saying it was necessary to improve broadband connectivity in areas with little competition, Blackburn filed another bill to overturn the FCC decision. She wasn’t able to get legislation passed, but that FCC decision ended up being overturned in court.
In July 2016, Blackburn submitted a proposal to prevent the FCC from imposing new consumer privacy rules that must be followed by ISPs. The FCC voted to impose the rules in October. Blackburn also argued against a Wheeler attempt to save customers money on cable TV set-top box rental fees, which was dropped after a big industry lobbying effort.
The FCC majority will shift to Republicans after Trump becomes president later this month. While Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai could be named interim chair, there’s no word on who Trump will select to lead the commission on a long-term basis. On Tuesday, New York magazine reported that Trump has asked News Corp. CEO and Acting Fox News CEO Rupert Murdoch to submit suggestions for potential FCC chair nominees.Follow this link to read more.