Blackburn Introduces Bill To Block FCC On Net Neutrality

As promised, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), a member of the House subcommittee that has oversight of communications policy, has introduced a bill to block the FCC's rewrite of its network neutrality rules. Were it to have much chance of passage, which it does not, it would also invalidate the remaining transparency requirement in the rules.

The Internet Freedom Act (H.R. 4070) gets right to the point. The page-long bill (actually two with boilerplate), which bills itself as legislation "To prohibit the Federal Communications Commission from regulating certain network management practices of broadband Internet access service providers," essentially says that the FCC can't reinstate its old rules, or anything that resembles its old rules unless Congress legislates those new rules. That isn't going to happen, but chances for the Blackburn bill are equally slim unless Republicans reclaim the Senate.

A similarly long-shot bill was introduced on the other side by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), ranking member of the subcommittee, to clarify that the FCC had the authority on its own to reinstate the rules. She has conceded that it is a non-starter.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler this week outlined his plans to use the FCC's authority to regulate broadband deployment to reinstate the spirit of the antiblocking and antidiscrimination provisions of the FCC's Open Internet order, which a D.C. federal appeals court vacated and remanded back to the FCC last month.

Wheeler saw that remand as an invitation to restore the rules under more solid legal authority, which he has begun the process of doing. He plans to have new rules ready by spring.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.