Congress Contemplates Net Neutrality Rollback, Jess Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg Invited to Testify

Posted on: July 28, 2017, 01:00h. 

Last updated on: July 28, 2017, 01:11h.

Appointed by President Donald Trump, current Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai wants to roll back net neutrality regulations that were imposed under former President Barack Obama’s FCC head, Tom Wheeler. That could be bad news for online gambling, as an open internet prevents telecommunication companies from dictating which websites are accessible to consumers. 

FCC net neutrality Zuckerberg Bezos
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, among the richest men on Earth (according to Forbes), have been invited to Washington to provide their opinions to Congress in September on the FCC’s attempts to rescind net neutrality regulations. (Image: TIME)

To help better understand the issues, the House Energy and Commerce Committee has invited tech leaders to testify during a September hearing on the issue, a hint that Congress could decide to take the matter into its own hands.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who became the world’s richest man for just one day this week as his company’s stock soared, was among those invited to Capitol Hill. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Google co-founder Larry Page have also received invitations to provide their expertise.   

“The time has come to get everyone to the table and get this figured out,” Energy and Commerce Chairman Rep. Greg Walden (R-Oregon) explained in the hearing announcement.

FCC Politicized

The Federal Communications Commission is supposed to be an independent agency, like the FBI or IRS, working on behalf of the public’s common good. But over the years, it’s become a politically divisive arm that spawns strong emotions on both sides of the aisle.

In 2015, the FCC reclassified broadband services as utilities, with internet service providers (ISPs) designated as “common carriers.” The ruling mandated that internet companies not block or slow traffic to certain consumers, nor prioritize websites.

Once telecommunications providers like Comcast and Time Warner were no longer legally allowed to keep their customers from access to an internet casino (or any other site), it was seen as a score for iGaming.

But those conglomerates are also extremely powerful companies with heavy influence in the nation’s capitol. And adding fuel to teh fire, companies like IBM, Intel, and Qualcomm argue that net neutrality deters investment in broadband infrastructure.

PayPal founder Peter Thiel, whose former company only recently returned its payment processor services to internet gambling sites in the US, is against net neutrality. The billionaire spoke at the Republican National Convention, and strongly endorsed Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Invitees Support Neutrality

Zuckerberg has been an outspoken proponent of net neutrality. Earlier this month, the Facebook founder posted, “We strongly support those rules. We’re also open to working with members of Congress … to protect net neutrality.”

Bezo’s Amazon and Page’s Google have also both expressed support for net neutrality. The House Committee’s olive branch to the three tech giants might show they want to get their input on why net neutrality should stand.

The Energy and Commerce Committee’s principal responsibility for legislative oversight includes telecommunications and extends over the FCC. The latter is tasked with regulating various interstate technological industries including radio, television, wire, satellite, and internet, which currently includes net neutrality enforcement.

Forbes “Richest” Rankings

For a time on Thursday, Bezo’s net worth was $90.6 billion, ahead of Bill Gates at $90.1 billion. Zuckerberg is the world’s fifth-richest with $56 billion, and Page holds about $45 billion.

But by midday Friday, the War of the Wealthy had righted itself, and Gates was back on top at $89.7 billion, and Bezos fell back to the #2 spot with $87.4 billion in net worth.

To put all that in perspective, also as of midday Friday, Las Vegas Sands’ Sheldon Adelson, who comes in as the world’s richest casino magnate, had a fortune estimated to be worth $34.8 billion, which ranks him at #20. Las Vegas mastermind Steve Wynn practically looks like a pauper, coming in at the #744 spot, with a mere $3 billion.