Smucker pitches GOP-friendly net neutrality bill

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker speaks during a debate with challenger Jess King at Eastern York High School Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018. The two are running for the 11th Congressional District seat. The event was sponsored by WGAL-TV and the York County Economic Alliance. Bill Kalina photo

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker's net neutrality bill might face a roadblock as members of the Democrat-led committee where it sits are touting a bill of their own that's probably doomed.

The Lancaster County Republican introduced legislation Monday, April 8, that would amend Title I of the Communications Act of 1934 to prohibit broadband providers from blocking or throttling lawful content on the internet.

"The internet should be a free space,” Smucker said. “Commonsense regulation can be helpful and protect consumers, but oppressive federal strong-arming benefits no one, especially not the internet.”

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On April 10, while Smucker's bill sat in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the House overwhelmingly passed Democratic legislation dubbed the Save the Internet Act of 2019 in a 232-190 vote. It's expected to be dead on arrival in the GOP-run Senate.

Smucker's pitch might appeal to the Senate Republicans, who tend to be more skeptical about regulatory edicts. It includes some of what the Democrats are fighting for but caps the power of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Title I has been in effect since 2017, when the FCC repealed Obama-era policy classifying broadband service providers as common carriers under Title II — satisfying GOP calls to end alleged federal regulatory overreach and boost investments in high-speed internet.

The move reversed the ban on throttling, blocking and paid prioritization of lawful content. It also came with a transparency rule forcing companies to disclose management practices, which didn't actually prohibit them from using the tactics.

Smucker's legislation would let broadband providers maintain the Title I classification that deems them information services, include the former ban and codify the transparency rule. 

It would also limit the power of the FCC by letting the Federal Trade Commission retain its enforcement over anti-trust and anti-competition laws, which Smucker said is a "commonsense" approach different from the likely doomed Democratic bill.

Smucker's legislation doesn't have a Senate companion bill. And a spokesman for the House committee wouldn't say whether its members might consider the proposal.

The Democrats are instead focused on the recently passed legislation by Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., which would repeal the FCC's 2017 ruling and reinstate the Obama-era Title II classification in totality.

The bill "charts a new course for net neutrality and would put in place 21st century rules for a 21st century internet," Doyle said.

The Democrats' bill would prohibit the FCC from altering rate setting, unbundling internet service provider networks and levying additional taxes on broadband access.

Sen. Ed Markey, D- Mass., is sponsoring a companion bill in the Senate, where it sits in the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.