Net Neutrality Ruling Draws Sharp Reaction

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Youngstown Business Incubator’s CEO and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan joined President Obama in praising the Federal Communication Commission’s vote to approve strong net neutrality rules, as Republican lawmakers and some business leaders decry the decision and vow to fight it legislatively and in court.

The FCC approved the new rules Thursday on a 3-2 vote; Democrats in favor, Republicans against. The regulatory agency ruled that broadband Internet services is a public utility. As such, the FCC decided, content cannot be blocked and the Internet cannot be divided into fast and slow lanes.

“Today’s FCC decision will protect innovation and create a level playing field for the next generation of entrepreneurs — and it wouldn’t have happened without Americans like you,” the president said in an email Thursday thanking them for participating in the discussion.

More than four million comments were received by the FCC during its rule-making process, the overwhelming majority of them in favor of net neutrality.

Jim Cossler, YBI’s CEO and “chief evangelist,” called the FCC ruling “not only a huge victory” for consumers but for startup communities like the one YBI is growing.

“Without the protection afforded by this decision, I genuinely believe that entrepreneurial activity, innovation and investment in this critical of our economy would completely wither,” Cossler said.

“And should that happen, it would have a devastating effect on the U.S. economy competing in a global market,” he continued. “Don’t we want the next Google, Amazon or Netflix starting here rather than in China?”

Ryan, D-13 Ohio, commended the FCC decision, which “allows the creation of clear rules and regulations to ban paid prioritization of content and services across all Internet platforms — including mobile broadband, which makes up 63% of all usage,” he said. “The Internet is an indispensable part of American lives and it should be classified in a way that reflects the world we live in today.”

Republican Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology responded unfavorably to the FCC’s new rule. The agency’s 3-2 vote along party lines “is not the policy consensus” the issue deserves, the subcommittee’s majority said.

Its members include U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-6 Ohio.

“Resorting to Great Depression-era rules will trigger a stampede to the courts, unleashing years of lawsuits and uncertainty at a time when U.S. leadership and the Internet economy are more important than ever,” the GOP members posted on the subcommitee’s website. “We believe the Internet has worked well under current rules, but we were — and we remain – willing to come to the table with legislation to answer the calls for legally sustainable consumer protections for the free and open Internet that has fostered a generation of innovation, economic growth, and global empowerment.

“Consumers, investment in state-of-the-art networks, and job creation all stand to lose from today’s heavy-handed decision,” the Republicans warned. “And transparency has all but evaporated during this broken process. Once these rules finally emerge from the shadows, it will become clear that the FCC’s action today does not end the debate.”

Larry Ward, chairman of the Constitutional Rights Political Action Committee, responded that the “disgusting powergrab” (sic) by the FCC’s “majority of three” was “totally at odds with liberty and the republican form of government.” As the Affordable Care Act has “destroyed” the health-care market, the FCC’s rules can be expected “to destroy the Internet” as it is today.

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