Following the Federal Communications Commission's vote Thursday, U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik urged her colleagues in Congress to pass legislation that would codify net neutrality into law.
The FCC adopted a proposal along party lines to repeal the Obama-era net neutrality rules passed in 2015. Republican commissioners said net neutrality stifled innovation and returning to the previous regulatory framework would restore internet freedom. But Democrats contend that eliminating the rules will hurt consumers and enable broadband providers to slow traffic or charge to view email, videos and other content.
But Stefanik, R-Willsboro, doesn't believe the net neutrality debate should end with the FCC's vote. She wants Congress to act.
One concern for Stefanik is the availability of internet service in the 21st Congressional District, which covers the North Country in New York. Like many rural areas in the state, broadband access is limited or nonexistent.
"An open internet is critical to promoting prosperity and innovation with the power to enhance our lives, communities and markets," she said. "The internet is an essential resource and Americans should have access to the information they want, not the information specific entities choose to make available."
The FCC passed net neutrality rules in 2015 to ensure websites are treated equally. The goal of the policy was to prevent internet service providers, especially larger companies, from blocking or slowing access to certain websites.
Ajit Pai, the new FCC chairman under President Donald Trump, made repealing net neutrality a priority. He unveiled his proposal to end the rules last month.
Republican commissioners insisted the repeal wouldn't impact how internet service is delivered.
"It's not going to end the internet as we know it," Pai said.
But Democratic commissioners opposed the proposal because they believe it would be bad for consumers. Jessica Rosenworcel said companies would be able to block websites and censor content. Mignon Clyburn considers it a blow to the agency's oversight of broadband providers.
"The FCC is handing the keys of the internet over to a handful of multi-billion dollar corporations," Clyburn said.
The debate over net neutrality is far from over. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman plans to sue to stop the repeal of the rules. One of Stefanik's colleagues, Democratic U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, introduced legislation to stop the rulemaking process used by the FCC to end net neutrality.
With the vote already taking place, Stefanik is calling for hearings with internet service providers that would help Congress draft legislation to codify net neutrality into law.
"I will be engaging with my colleagues on the path forward and will continue to work to preserve an open, accessible internet," she said.