Politics & Government

What do SC congressmen think about net neutrality?

Mark Sanford, left, and Jeff Duncan
Mark Sanford, left, and Jeff Duncan

Two of South Carolina’s GOP congressmen are backing a move by federal regulators to do away with rules aimed at keeping the internet a level playing field.

Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-Laurens, said Thursday’s vote was a step toward keeping the internet free of government regulation. The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to repeal the rules put in place by the Obama administration in 2015.

“I am a strong believer in an open internet, free of excessive government regulation and control,” Duncan said in a Facebook post.

The commission’s vote would “free the internet of 1930-styled regulations that were imposed upon it by the Obama Administration that are responsible for reducing critical broadband investment crucial for the rural Third District and South Carolina as a whole.”

Rep. Mark Sanford, R-Charleston, said the new rules are consistent with his goal of reining in federal overreach, and the need for Congress to make big policy decisions like net neutrality instead of regulatory agencies such as the FCC.

“One administrator adds or subtracts; the next one does the opposite,” Sanford said. “I think all of this begs the larger question of how we can avoid getting whipsawed on a whole host of issues.”

Rep. Ralph Norman, R-Rock Hill, also praised FCC chairman Ajit Pai for the “open and transparent” way he went about drafting and adopting the order.

“The Internet was free and open before the heavy-handed Title II Internet regulations placed in 2015 by the Obama Administration, and it will be free and open after they are repealed,” Norman said.

Critics of the FCC’s move worry the change will allow internet service providers to create tiered internet access, where some companies can pay to have their content load faster while competitors with fewer resources are left in the slow lane.

Democratic FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn – and daughter of S.C. Congressman Jim Clyburn – called her colleagues’ decision a “legally lightweight, consumer harming, corporate enabling, destroying internet freedom order.”

“I dissent because I am among the millions outraged because the FCC pulls its own teeth, abdicating its responsibility to the nation’s broadband consumers.”

But Duncan blamed net neutrality for a fall in broadband investment.

“Since the decision in 2015 to regulate the internet like a public utility, we have seen broadband investment fall two years in a row, the first drop in investment in American history outside of a recession,” Duncan said, arguing the FCC vote would “restore internet regulations back to the pre-2015 standards, the same free-market approach that has spurred internet innovation and investment for the last several decades.”

While saying he would be “pushing back” against uneven competition, Sanford said that philosophically, he favored letting markets set the rules for the web rather than the government.

“(C)ompetition, relatively light overall regulation, and even the absence of net-neutrality rules have been at least a part of the formula in making the internet the idea and content generating catalyst that it is today,” he said.