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WASHINGTON — On Thursday, Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee published a letter led by Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D–New Jersey) and Scott Peters (D–California) proposing a so-called Net Neutrality working group to reconsider the Save the Internet Act, which passed the House in April with 232 votes. No Democrats voted against the bill.

While the House moved the Save the Internet Act through its full legislative process, the House letter, which 47 Democratic members signed, proposes to create this group to work on a new bill. In an unusual move, the letter was released by Republican members of the Energy and Commerce Committee who oppose Net Neutrality and tried to derail the Save the Internet Act with poison-pill amendments.

The letter mirrors a bid by Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D–Arizona) and Roger Wicker (R–Mississippi) to undermine the legislation before it receives a vote in the upper chamber. Sinema is the lone Senate Democrat who has refused to co-sponsor the Senate version of the Save the Internet Act. A similar bill to restore the FCC’s strong Net Neutrality rules passed the Senate with bipartisan support in 2018.

National polls show that strong majorities of voters in both parties, including more than 80 percent of Republicans and 90 percent of Democrats, support the Net Neutrality safeguards and legal framework the Save the Internet Act would reinstate.

In response to the House letter, 32 public-interest organizations, including the groups like Free Press Action that are leading the open-internet movement, sent a letter to House Democratic leadership opposing the proposal from Reps. Gottheimer and Peters.

Free Press Action President and CEO Craig Aaron made the following statement:

“This letter is nothing more than a thinly veiled scheme to strip the FCC of its authority to protect internet users. It’s sad that a handful of House Democrats would fall for this deceptive letter, co-authored by Josh Gottheimer and Comcast. By signing on to it, they defied the wishes of the vast majority of their constituents, and basically undermined their earlier votes for the Save the Internet Act. It just shows the lows some lawmakers will sink to to appease powerful corporations.

“Poll after poll has shown that Republican and Democratic voters alike favor the Title II protections that the Save the Internet Act would reinstate, and yet for some elected officials the demands of the people they represent don’t matter as much as bowing to the cable-industry lobbyists that write big campaign checks.

“The Save the Internet Act passed the House with overwhelming support. And just last year the Senate passed a bipartisan measure to bring back the Title II Net Neutrality rules and other broadband-user safeguards that the Trump FCC destroyed in 2017. True bipartisanship would mean listening to the demands of Republican and Democratic voters who are unified in their support of the real Net Neutrality protections offered by the Save the Internet Act.

“This cynical attempt to undermine the Save the Internet Act can be traced to representatives who have long tried to weaken Net Neutrality. Congressman Gottheimer’s efforts to sabotage strong open-internet protections began during his inglorious tenure as an FCC staff member, where he led efforts to push weak compromises that the courts later rejected.

“When he isn’t abusing his staff and yelling at reporters, Gottheimer has spent most of his time in Congress trying to subvert public-interest policies and his colleagues too, including the chairs of the committees charged with oversight of the FCC. Sadly, a handful of other members have bought into his so-called strategy here, one that serves only the most powerful internet gatekeepers.

“The House leadership and all members of Congress must see this awful charade for what it really is: not a bid for bipartisanship but a cowardly and corrupt capitulation to AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from lawmakers who should know better. Any elected representative who wants to do right by their constituents must stop waffling on Net Neutrality, distance themselves from this letter and abandon plans for an industry-friendly working group that harms internet users.

“Free Press Action is asking each of the signers to publicly disavow this letter and renew their pledge to encourage passage of the Save the Internet Act in the Senate. We won’t stop until they honor the millions and millions of people in the United States who demand real Net Neutrality.”

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