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Amazon, Etsy Rip GOP Net Neutrality Bill Over ‘Loopholes’

Company execs say legislative proposal could easily be exploited

A top Amazon executive and the CEO of an Internet shopping site are delivering the same warning to House and Senate Republicans proposing their own version of net neutrality to preempt the FCC’s stronger plan.

Putting up a caution sign, they say there are way too many ways for big Internet service providers to evade the limits.

“There is widespread acceptance of the need for government action to ensure Internet openness,” said Paul Misener, Amazon’s Vice President for Global Public Policy. He warned Congress it would be making “a mistake” if it went too far in limiting FCC action.

“Summarily blocking the FCC’s use of existing statutory enforcement authority could leave the agency helpless to address improper behaviors,” he added.

A similar message was delivered by Chad Dickerson, CEO of e-commerce website Etsy.

“Without clear, bright line rules that preserve a level playing field online, millions of startups will suffer,” he said. “We are concerned that the proposal does not ban all types of discrimination online, leaving loopholes that could easily be exploited.”

The comments came as the House Energy and Commerce Committee released prepared testimony of witnesses in advance of their Wednesday appearance at a hearing of one of its subcommittees. Misener and Dickerson will be among the witnesses at two Capitol Hill hearings, one by the House panel and the other by the Senate Commerce Committee.

Republicans concerned that the FCC is going too far hope legislation will forestall the need for the agency to act. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has announced the commission will vote Feb. 26 on net neutrality. The GOP legislation would enshrine some of the FCC’s net neutrality openness goals into law, but limit the agency from taking any additional action to advance those goals.

Republicans describe their proposal as providing clear rules of the road and preserving unfettered access to the Internet yet ensuring that spending on innovation and investment won’t suffer.

Consumer groups and many Democrats argue the GOP legislation offers far too many loopholes and takes away some key elements of the FCC’s ability to fight attempts at evasion.

Misener warned the legislation would let service providers avoid much of law’s openness by designating some of their own content as “specialized services,” creating “a huge loophole.”

Other language could make it easier for service providers to seize on a “reasonable network management” excuse to favor their own content, he added.

Jessica J. Gonzalez, EVP of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, said the proposed legislation “suffers from a number of fatal flaws that could permanently debilitate the FCC and lead to disastrous unintended consequences,” and the loopholes are so large they threaten “to swallow” the rules.

The legislation got far more favorable reviews from others.

Meredith Attwell Baker, CEO and president of CTIA, the association of wireless carriers, said it offers “a reasonable path toward ensuring the preservation” of the Web, and said the group has “significant reservations” over the path contemplated by the FCC.

Michael Powell, President and CEO of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, said it would provide certainty and avoid the delay of a likely legal challenge to any FCC action.

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