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Walberg to FCC: Beware of Undermining Internet Service Protections for Americans

April 19, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C.—U.S. Representative Tim Walberg (MI-07) has joined his colleagues on the Energy and Commerce Committee in sending a letter to Acting FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel highlighting the consequences of imposing sweeping regulations, such as the new California law, that could result in Americans losing their internet services. Last month, after the State of California began enforcing its strict net neutrality law, carriers such as AT&T and T-Mobile that offer a free telehealth service to veterans called VA Video Connect, informed the Department of Veterans Affairs that they will likely not be able to continue offering that service as a result of the requirements under the law.
As the lawmakers state in the letter: “We cannot risk losing lifesaving programs like VA Video Connect by imposing heavy handed regulations under Title II of the Communications Act. This is why we continue to support pro-consumer, light-touch neutrality protections that preserve a highly competitive market, encourage investment and innovation, and limit the unintended consequences we now see as a result of California’s law.”
Under sponsored data plan arrangements, also called “zero-ratings,” veterans can access the VA Video Connect mobile app without it counting against their mobile data plans. Unfortunately, the California law blocks these types of arrangements and threatens access to critical health services during a time when veterans need it most. In April 2019, Congressman Walberg offered an amendment during an Energy and Commerce Committee markup that would have allowed Internet Service Providers to offer these opportunities, but Democrats on the Committee rejected the amendment, and now the State of California is jeopardizing access to money-saving resources for vulnerable and low-income Americans. 
In the letter, Walberg and his colleagues cautioned Acting FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel against inhibiting consumers in other states with these misguided regulations. They concluded: “We urge you to avoid the same mistakes made by California and the 2015 Commission. If the Commission chooses to amend the strong consumer protections already in place, we believe that the heavy hand of overregulation will have far reaching and adverse consequences for consumer access, consumer prices, and competition.”