Exclusive — Sen. Kennedy on Net Neutrality: Phone Companies Don’t Tell You What You Can Say, Neither Should Cable Companies

Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) explained to Breitbart News his decision to vote in defense of the Obama-era rules known as net neutrality, boiling his position down to a simple question: “Do you trust your cable company?”

In May, the Senate passed, 52-47, a Democratic Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution that, if signed by President Donald Trump, would restore the Obama-era Federal Communications Commission (FCC) net neutrality regulations. Three Republican — Sens. Kennedy, Susan Collins (ME), and Lisa Murkowski (AK) — joined the Democrats to support the resolution.

Asked by Breitbart News Deputy Political Editor Amanda House to explain his decision to support the Democrat’s net neutrality CRA, Kennedy said, “To me, it had nothing to do with Democrats or Republicans — I’ve never seen it as a Democrat or Republican issue.”

“This is what it boils down to: Do you trust your cable company?” Kennedy continued.

I mean if you trust your cable company, then you support the FCC decision to allow cable companies to censor and to throttle and to make you pay more if they want to for a fast lane. They say they won’t do that. I’m not saying that I don’t believe them. I’m just saying, you know, when I play poker with friends, I trust them, but I cut the cards. Now, if you don’t believe the cable companies, if you think that they will take the right to censor and to throttle and to implement fast lanes, you’ll support net neutrality.

Net neutrality passed under former Democrat FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in 2015. The rule, known as the Open Internet Order, reclassified the internet as a public monopoly. Critics chided the rule, stating that it would diminish the freedom of the Internet. Proponents argue that the regulations prevent Internet service providers (ISPs) from discriminating against content providers.

“Here was the bottom line for me,” Kennedy added, “the argument is that we give the cable company the authority to censor or slow down Internet sites unless you pay more money and if you don’t like it you can switch cable companies. There’s just one problem with that: you can’t switch cable companies.”

In Lousiana, about 20 percent, 22 percent I think, of all of my people have access to one Internet service provider. It gives them the speed they need. So they can’t switch. If you leave out the satellite providers and just go to fixed broadband, half of Americans have access to only one cable company. So if a cable company says, ‘Hey I’m going to slow down or stop your ability to view this website unless you pay me more money, they can’t switch.

I just think the Internet is like a telephone or cell phone or electricity or water, it’s become a necessity. When you sign up for telephone service, the telephone company doesn’t tell you who you can talk to, and the telephone company doesn’t tell you what you can say. So I just don’t think the cable companies should be allowed to do that either.

The FCC passed the “Restoring Internet Freedom Order” in December, which repealed the agency’s 2015 net neutrality regulations. The Restoring Internet Freedom Order — which goes into effect Monday, June 11 — reclassifies the Internet as an “information service” and requires that Internet service providers (ISPs), such as Comcast and Verizon, release reports detailing their practices on blocking, throttling, and data prioritization.

Both FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioner Michael O’Reilly have argued that Congress should enact a permanent, legislative solution to the issue of net neutrality. Pai said in an April 2017 interview with Breitbart News, “I think the best solution would be for Congress to tell us what they want the rules of the road to be for the FCC and the country when it comes to the digital world.”

“Because again as Commissioner O’Reilly pointed out we don’t want the regulatory winds to keep shifting every four or eight years we want to provide some level of consistency to the marketplace so that consumers and companies alike can enjoy the digital revolution,” Pai added.

Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview in May that the Senate net neutrality CRA vote (the one that Kennedy supported) underscores the need for a legislation codifying the rules of a free and open Internet.

Blackburn told Breitbart News, “It also points out that the American people agree with us that you need one set of rules for the entire Internet ecosystem, whether it’s your Internet service provider, or your edge provider, to govern your privacy, to have your notification for data security for data breaches things of that nature.”

“We are working to push forward the Open Internet Preservation Act that would codify no block, no throttle, and we will set prioritization aside for a deeper dive, and that’s the reason why.”

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