House panel backs broadband measure despite concerns about FCC rules
Ignoring Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations is not the way to run the government, according to three GOP lawmakers who questioned Democrat-sponsored legislation.
HB4819, a bill sponsored by Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago) that would create the Broadband Procurement and Disclosure Act, was not welcome by Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Dixon) and seriously questioned by Reps. David Harris (R-Arlington Heights) and Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) at the April 11 hearing of the House Cybersecurity, Data Analytics & IT Committee.
Based on the bill synopsis, the bill “provides that no state broadband purchaser may award any contract to an internet service provider (ISP) that includes broadband service unless the contract provides specified terms concerning access to and impairment of internet services.”
“Last year the FCC rolled back net neutrality protections designed to protect access to the internet, opening the door to change the internet as we know it as consumers for all of our constituents,” Williams said, then asking what life looks like without net neutrality.
Giving examples of long loading times and limited data usage and website access, Williams portrayed a bleak future without her bill, but did not point out HB4819 ignores FCC preemption regulations.
“I would note representative, you started your testimony with a rather dystopian view of what could happen, and it’s hard to believe that was the case only three years when the prior FCC rules where in place, but I don’t recall it being quite as bleak was what was characterized there,” Demmer said before starting off with the legal basis of the bill.
The December 2017 FCC order is very clear, according to Demmer.
“It expressly states it preempts any local measures that would impose rules or requirements that the FCC has repealed or decided to refrain from imposing in this order,” Demmer said.
Williams said at first glance it can seem concerning, but assured Demmer the bill language was carefully crafted to avoid a preemption challenge and gives the state of Illinois the authority it should maintain as far as ISP coverage for constituents. But Demmer did not see it that way, citing Supreme Court precedent and a preemption challenge in Wisconsin Department. of Industry and Relations vs. Gould Inc.
“That certainly sounds like an argument you would want to make if you challenged this in the Supreme Court, but we are not challenging in court, today we are asking to pass it through the Legislature,” Williams countered. “There is a whole branch of government that can make that decision.”
The FCC language is very clear, Demmer noted again, saying the FCC “is not just talking about the rules that they imposed, but also those that they have decided to refrain from imposing.”
Harris brought up the same point.
“The definitions you have in your legislation, are those definitions consistent with what was used at the federal level?” Harris asked Williams regarding her explanation of broadband service, content applications, edge providers and ISP in HB4819. Harris also suggested she work with opponents to clear up any questionable language.
Wheeler went right to FCC regulations and piece mail legislation.
He noted that with technology comes innovation and with innovation comes probable business, which could be thwarted by Williams' legislation.
“How companies choose to invest in what happens next is impacted by regulation,” Wheeler said, adding he inquired with Google on how the company deals with conflicting state rules and was told they shelf the proposal until a resolve is met. “I want to see more investment in Illinois.”
He concluded the bill is going in the wrong direction.
Though Demmer and Wheeler voted no, Harris voted present and HB4819 passed 6-2.