Mar 18 2015
Washington, D.C. – During a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), in an exchange with Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), expressed his concern that the FCC’s new net neutrality order gives foreign governments an excuse to restrict the Internet in their own nations.
Rubio pointed out countries who restrict the Internet, like Russia and China, do not have a First Amendment or “any sort of societal or governmental commitment to the notion of free speech.”
A video of the full exchange is available here.
Excerpts from the exchange are available below:
Senator Marco Rubio: “But we’re sending a mixed message. On the one hand we are arguing that government has no role to play, and on the other hand, our own government has said there is a problem we need to solve and therefore it’s injected itself.”
The Honorable Tom Wheeler: “Senator, with due respect, I disagree. And I have met with foreign regulators on this topic, and my message to them is this is no more regulating the Internet than the First Amendment regulates free speech. This is saying that the Internet is open, that everybody has the right to express themselves. I met two weeks ago with all of the European regulators and they understand this is what it is. I met last week with the head of the International Telecommunications Union, which is kind of the international body that comes up with this. This is not, you need to understand, this is not the regulation of the Internet. This is making sure that the Internet is open.
“The regulation of the Internet is the regulation of numbers, names, routers, this kind of activity, and tariffing and rates. ‘That is not what this country stands for,’ I said. When Putin tries to shut down Pussy Riot on Facebook, when China tries to shut down access to Google, when Turkey tries to shut down access to Twitter, those are absolute violations of what we are talking about here. Because no party, whether government or private sector, should act as a gatekeeper for who gets on the Internet. That’s what this rule does.”
Rubio: “But as you just said at the outset of your statement, you’re saying this is no more a regulation than the First Amendment, the problem is Putin doesn’t have a First Amendment and neither does China. And I understand you’re meeting and talking with Europeans, but the ones we’re really concerned about is China and Russia and others who already control the Internet because they are not constrained by a First Amendment, and, in fact, don’t even understand the concept. In particular, in China, of this notion of free speech, when you make the argument to them, for example as you’ve made now, that we are not regulating content, this is for them, literally, a foreign concept.
“They don’t have a First Amendment, nor do they have any sort of societal or governmental commitment to the notion of free speech. What they see is a governmental agency of the United States involved in setting terms for how the Internet can be provided, maybe even if its content neutral. And I think it gives them an excuse to say, ‘If your government can do it, our government can do it too.’”