Doug Jones addresses University of Alabama students on net neutrality — Argues to keep FCC over regulation of the Internet
TUSCALOOSA – Keeping the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in charge of regulating the Internet is a key in the net neutrality debate for Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook).
Friday at an almost-full Ferguson Center auditorium on the campus of the University of Alabama, Jones hosted a forum on net neutrality and argued that Internet service providers shouldn’t play favorites with content.
“What net neutrality does do is to say we don’t like to have Internet service providers that will try to block content, try to restrict content, try to throttle back content for favored businesses, for favored companies,” he said. “In other words, if you want to pay more for Netflix, here is the price. And by the way, if you want Hulu or Amazon Prime, we’re not offering that.”
Jones explained how recently the FCC had abdicated its role as the Internet’s regulator, which he said made “no sense.”
“The FCC came up with the Internet protections, the Internet regulations, the open Internet rule to try to levelize the playing field,” he said. “Make sure that everyone that had access to the Internet had essentially the same access from all places.”
“This past year, the recent FCC has decided to roll back that,” Jones continued. “They decided to change that and say, ‘We don’t really have this jurisdiction. It needs to be from somewhere else.’ The Federal Communications Commission, which I can’t really understand why – the Federal Communications Commission is saying we do not have the authority or should not have the authority to regulate the Internet because it is not under our jurisdiction. That makes no sense to me.”
According to Alabama’s junior senator, the hope by some is to put the Internet under the purview of either the Federal Trade Commission or the Department of Justice.
“Now, they want to put it over the FTC, the Federal Trade Commission, or the Department of Justice – none of that makes any sense to me,” Jones said. “It may make sense to you. If it does, I would like to hear, seriously.”
Jones argued the Internet was a communications device, and therefore should remain under the jurisdiction of the FCC.
“I’m having a hard time with the FCC deciding how someone else – particularly the Department of Justice,” he added. “I mean, I’ve done two stints with the Department of Justice, one as an assistant U.S. Attorney many years ago, and then as U.S. Attorney about 15 years ago.”
Jones explained how Congress could get involved and by statute put the Internet back under the FCC’s regulatory duties. He cited using the Congressional Review Act of 1996 to override the FCC’s decision.
“It is not used very often, but it gives Congress the opportunity to weigh in,” he said. “Right now there are 50 senators out of the 100 – not quite enough to get us over the hump – that have signed on to the congressional resolution, the Congressional Review Act, the CRA, that would roll back and halt the FCC’s doing away with their own rule that they had in 2015.
“I don’t know where that’s going to go,” he added, noting that it wasn’t something that would require the signature of President Donald Trump to put into motion.
Jones went on to pledge his support for a “free and open” Internet, and warned that without net neutrality big Internet companies would put profits ahead of consumers and perhaps created fast and slow “lanes.”