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Republican budget proposal would gut net neutrality

The House bill sets out to punish the FCC for tighter telecom regulations.

Reuters/Gary Cameron

It's no secret that the Republican Party hates net neutrality regulation, but it's now ready to raise the stakes. House GOP members have drafted a 2017 budget proposal that would neuter some of the FCC's bigger telecom initiatives, at least for a while. On top of cutting the FCC's budget by $69 million, it would prevent the FCC from enforcing its net neutrality rules until some court cases wind down -- which, knowing the legal system, could take years. You could also forget about short-term attempts to open up competition for TV set-top boxes, as the legislation would prevent the FCC from taking action on its set-top rule until a study finishes.

There's more: the bill would also ban attempts at regulating broadband rates. While the FCC is okay with keeping its hands off of regular pricing, the GOP proposal would have such a broad definition of rate regulation that it would hamper the FCC's net neutrality enforcement. It would prevent the Commission from looking into unfair data cap practices, for instance. In theory, carriers would be free to use low caps and exceptions to steer you toward their services while making life difficult for others.

It's entirely possible that President Obama could veto the bill given that the US government's fiscal year starts in October, assuming it gets the necessary votes. The House unsuccessfully tried a similar move last year. However, it won't be surprising if supporters keep pushing. Net neutrality has long been a hot-button issue for anti-regulation forces, and telecom campaign money (the House Appropriations Committee chair received $25,500) is bound to motivate those opponents.