Hartzler Opposes Measure to Provide More Government Control over the Internet
(Washington, DC) – Citing the need to preserve a free and open internet, Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler today voted against HR 1644, Democrat-led legislation which would impose new government restrictions on the internet, stifling investment and innovation, making it more difficult to expand broadband into rural areas, and laying the groundwork for eventual internet taxation.
“I support a free and open internet that encourages competition and innovation. This legislation is anything but that. Instead this bill seeks to re-impose government restrictions that hampered the internet years ago with layers of government red tape, stifled investment and barriers which made it more difficult to expand broadband into rural areas,” said Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler, who noted that when these burdensome regulations were lifted in 2017, internet speeds in the United States rose nearly forty percent the following year. “We don’t want to go backwards. Most rural Missourians still lack dependable internet and now is not the time to impose more government control of the internet. This is the last thing rural America needs as we work to bring broadband investment into these areas. HR 1644 works against rural America,” added Hartzler, who was successful in getting provisions added the 2018 Farm Bill which increased minimum speed requirements and required loan guarantees to be issued for USDA broadband programs.
Specifically, the legislation Hartzler opposed would empower the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), an unelected panel of bureaucrats tasked with making policy decisions, to set prices, sanction investments, and dictate how broadband companies interact with customers. This would usurp the private sector, diminishing competition and investment which is needed to keep prices affordable and encourage innovation. When these government restrictions were imposed by the Obama Administration private investment in broadband networks plummeted, declining by $3.6 billion in just two short years.
“These proposed government regulations of the internet have a marked history of decreasing investment which is vital for internet access and future expanse of broadband across Missouri,” said Hartzler, who noted that under Obama-era restrictions 80 percent of providers in rural areas incurred additional expenses in complying with the regulations, leading to delayed or reduced network expansion. “Further, these additional government controls lay the groundwork for eventual taxing of the internet by changing how state and local governments apply sales and other taxes on wireless and home access data. This legislation represents more government regulation, less rural access and increased costs,” added Hartzler.
“The role of our government is to keep the internet flourishing while protecting consumers and preventing anti-competitive behavior from bad actors,” said Hartzler, who noted her support for H.R.1096, the Promoting Internet Freedom and Innovation Act. Unlike HR 1644, HR 1096 is a pro-consumer bill which codifies opposition to blocking, throttling and paid prioritization – principles shared by both Republicans and Democrats – while avoiding burdensome government regulations. It also promotes transparency by requiring broadband providers to publicly disclose accurate information regarding their services and allow individuals to make informed decisions when choosing providers.
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