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Patricia O'Connell
Senior Communications Manager

Robert McDowell Testifies at U.S. House Subcommittee Hearing on Communications Legislation

January 12, 2016

Robert M. McDowell, former FCC commissioner and a partner in Wiley Rein’s Telecom, Media & Technology Practice, testified today before a U.S. House Energy and Commerce subcommittee in support of two proposed bills that concern the regulation of broadband providers.

The bills would foreclose two possibilities that the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) 2015 Open Internet Order will have negative effects on the marketplace for broadband Internet access service, Mr. McDowell told the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. The FCC Order reclassified broadband Internet providers as common carriers under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act.

The first bill, known as the No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act, would prevent the FCC from regulating the rates charged for broadband Internet access under the Order. “This bill would be a positive and constructive development for the Internet because the FCC’s Open Internet Order, while expressly proscribing ex ante rate regulation, leaves open the possibility that the Commission could regulate rates in different ways, resulting in collateral and negative effects on broadband infrastructure investment,” Mr. McDowell said.

The second bill, the Small Business Broadband Deployment Act, would make permanent the FCC’s temporary exemption for small businesses from the enhanced disclosure rules imposed by the Open Internet Order. “While the FCC’s practice has been to grant annual exemptions from these rules for small providers, this bill would provide statutory certainty to these providers that they will not be subject to these burdensome requirements in the future,” Mr. McDowell said.

Mr. McDowell served as an FCC commissioner from 2006 to 2013, during which he voted against two previous attempts by the agency to issue net neutrality rules. His written testimony from today’s hearing can be found here.

Wiley Rein represents two clients in a net neutrality challenge before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit; they are among a group of petitioners urging the court to vacate the 2015 Open Internet Order.