“Perhaps you should switch to another cable company… oh, that’s right, we’re the only one in town.” (credit: Viacom)

Republicans in Congress are advancing a bill that could strip the Federal Communications Commission of authority to protect consumers from unreasonable broadband prices. Democrats and consumer advocates warn that the bill could help Internet service providers overcharge customers and impose unfair data caps.
When the FCC reclassified broadband as a common carrier service in order to impose net neutrality rules, the commission declined to impose traditional rate regulation in which telecommunications providers would have to seek permission before raising prices. But the reclassification allows customers to complain about prices, with the FCC judging on a case-by-case basis whether a price or pricing practice is “unjust” or “unreasonable.”
Republicans led a hearing today on a few bills, including the “No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act,” which would do exactly what its title says by forbidding the FCC from regulating rates charged for Internet service. Republicans have said they’re simply trying to put into law a promise made by President Obama and FCC Chairman Wheeler that the commission won’t require ISPs to face the rate-of-return regulation traditionally applied to telephone service. Passing a law would prevent future FCC chairpersons from using a different strategy.
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