Congress is considering a bill that an Illinois consumer watchdog group says could prevent legitimate complaints about Internet access from being investigated.
Supporters of the No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act by U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois say the bill is supposed to prevent the Federal Communications Commission from capping how much Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can charge customers.
But Jim Chilsen, communications director for the Citizens Utility Board, warns the one paragraph bill would do a lot more than what its sponsors may intend.
"The initial language of the bill is so broad that it could effectively strip the Federal Communications Commission of its ability to protect consumers from price-gouging and threats to net neutrality," he maintains.
Chilsen says the No Rate Regulation bill would also prevent the FCC from investigating complaints about billing errors.
The legislation now awaits a vote in the federal House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Kinzinger introduced the bill last summer. He argues that allowing the FCC to regulate consumer broadband rates would be bad for business. The FCC, however, says it has no plans to do that.
Chilsen's group says unless the bill is rewritten with a more narrow focus, it could be bad for Internet customers.
"Consumers deserve reasonable and just prices and business practices from their Internet companies, and the FCC should be able to investigate that," he states.
So far, the bill has not earned bipartisan support. Its 18 cosponsors all are Republicans.