U.S. Markets close in 3 hrs 16 mins

Republican Lawmaker Calls Internet Optional As FCC Readies To Limit Broadband Options

AJ Dellinger
A Republican congressman told his constituents “nobody’s got to use the internet” in defense of his decision to vote to roll back broadband privacy rules. Meanwhile, the Republican-led FCC is preparing to loosen requirements that help guarantee access to broadband for businesses.

As Republican lawmakers continue to defend their decision to vote to roll back a set of broadband privacy rules that would have required internet service providers to ask for permission before collecting user data, the Federal Communications Commission is readying more drastic changes to the regulatory oversight of the internet.

In a town hall appearance held on Thursday, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis. defended his decision to vote to repeal the Broadband Consumer Privacy Rules passed by the FCC last October by arguing that “nobody’s got to use the internet.”

Read: Congress Decides To Kill Rules Preventing ISPs From Collecting, Selling Data

When a constituent attending the event in Wisconsin’s fifth district raised the issue that she has only one ISP available in her neighborhood and now has little recourse to protect her personal information from her internet provider, Sensenbrenner responded:

“You know, nobody’s got to use the internet….I don’t think it’s my job to tell you that you cannot get advertising through your information being sold. My job, I think, is to tell you that you have the opportunity to do it and then you take it upon yourself to make the choice.”

The congressman’s press office doubled down on this, responding to a tweet claiming Sensenbrenner said “not to use the internet” by stating, “Actually, he said that nobody has to use the internet. They have a choice.”

Sensenbrenner’s view contrasts with that of the United Nations, which has labeled internet access a basic human right, and with most trends that see more and more reliance on internet access to partake in other basic tasks, from completing school work to searching for employment.

Read: Senate Democrats Press ISPs To Disclose User Data Policies

While Sensenbrenner’s belief that “nobody’s got to use the internet” may be incorrect, new plans set to be voted on by the FCC might ensure that more people find themselves in the same situation as the congressman’s constituent who only has one choice for internet service providers.

A proposal set to be voted on by the commision on April 20 that would redefine “sufficient competition” in the business broadband market. Under the new rule, a county would be considered “competitive” if just 50 percent of businesses in the area are within half a mile of a location served by a broadband provider or if 75 percent of Census blocks in the county have access to a cable provider.

The proposal came under fire from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, which published a filing with the FCC Thursday that the new rules would not be suitable proof of competition and may leave some businesses without access to sufficient internet service.

Assuming the vote passes, it will mark the latest in a concerted effort to roll back Obama-era mandates designed to expand internet access. The FCC also undid a rule that required Charter to compete with other broadband providers and blocked ISPs from offering subsidized internet services to low-income Americans.

Related Articles