With the fate of Thursday’s net neutrality vote resting almost entirely in the hands of the Republican Party, a lone conservative has emerged to oppose FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to gift-wrap the internet for Verizon and Friends this Christmas.
Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman, a staunch conservative in nearly every sense, called on the FCC to delay its upcoming vote in a letter Tuesday, saying Congress should find a “permanent legislative solution to ensure the continuation of a free and open Internet.”
“The Internet has been and remains a transformative tool,” Coffman writes, “and I am concerned that any action you take may alter the rules under which it functions and may well have significant unanticipated negative consequences.”
Coffman then threw Pai’s own—actually quite elegant—words back at him:
“As you stated in your dissent to the previous FCC’s open Internet proceeding, ‘A dispute this fundamental is not for us, five unelected officials, to decide. Instead, it should be resolved by the people’s elected representatives, those who choose the direction of government—and those whom the American people can hold accountable for that choice.’
Coffman is the first Republican lawmaker to ask the FCC to delay the vote, but a handful of others have criticized the agency’s proposal in one way or another, including Sens. Susan Collins and John Thune and Reps. Dave Reichert, John Curtis, and Jeff Fortenberry.
Pai’s proposal would overturn the 2015 Open Internet order, which established federal rules prohibiting internet service providers from blocking or throttling content for customers or creating “fast lanes” for companies that pay more to have their services delivered at a faster speed.
Speaking on the Senate floor on Thursday, Sen. John Thune, Republican of South Dakota, joined Coffman’s call for legislation that would establish net neutrality protections as law rather than FCC regulations that can be relatively easily overturned.
“Congressional action is the only way to solve the endless back and forth on net neutrality rules that we’ve seen over the past several years,” Thune said, according to the Verge. “If my colleagues on the other side of the aisle and those who claim to support net neutrality rules want to enshrine protections for consumers with the backing of the law, I call on you today to join me in discussing legislation that would do just that.”
Evan Greer, campaign director for Fight for the Future, an advocacy group leading online protests ahead of Thursday’s vote, commended Coffman but referred to the legislative option as a “solution in search of a problem,” because the necessary net neutrality protections have been in place since 2015.
“Net neutrality is not a partisan issue outside of Washington, DC,” she said in a statement emailed to Gizmodo. “Voters from across the political spectrum don’t want their cable companies controlling what websites and apps they can use, or where they get their news from. Republican lawmakers like Mike Coffman can see the writing on the wall.”
You can view a full copy of Coffman’s letter below: