Dems' Net Neutrality Bill Nullifies Pai Deregulation; Reinstates Previous Order
The Democrats' version of a net neutrality bill essentially simply restores the 2015 Open Internet Order, which means rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization, and a general conduct standard to get at, well, general conduct that the FCC concludes interferes with a free and open internet but does not fit any of the other three rules. All by applying some Title II regs to wired and wireless broadband.
That is according to someone familiar with the language of the three-page bill, which essentially says that the Restoring Internet Freedom (RIF) Order backed by current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and the Republican majority would be gone and the Title II-based Open Internet Order adopted by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler take its place. The bill is getting a legislative hearing March 12.
Democrats in the House tried unsuccessfully to nullify RIF using a Congressional Review Act resolution, which would have restored the Open Internet Order, But that failed to pass--though it did make it through the Senate. This bill would be a second bite at that apple.
Related: Dems Prep Net Neutrality Bill
That bite will likely leave a sour taste in the mouths of Republicans on the committee, and not an olive-branch start on the way to bipartisan legislation, though that has always been an up-Hill climb regardless of how much both sides have said Congress should clarify the FCC's authority over net neutrality and end the constant legal back-and-forth that hardly leads to regulatory certainty.
Most Republicans--with the support, or at least the concession, of ISPs--are OK with restoring the rules under title I, or perhaps some new Title, though some finesse that third rule as no anticompetitive paid prioritization, which is, of course, open to interpretation.
Democrats on the House Energy & Commerce Committee, joined by some Senators--the Senate version is essentially the same, says a source--will unveil the bill Wednesday, but will likely leave it open for a couple of days to collect potential co-sponsors. The Senate bill will be introduced Wednesday since they already had a majority, including three Republicans, for nullifying the Restoring Internet Freedom order.
Republicans have offered their own net neutrality bills--three of them at last count--to restore the rules without Title II, with the exception of the general conduct standard rule, which they say is too broad and potentially chilling of new business models.
But Democrats have complained of not being consulted before the three bills were introduced, suggesting that was no olive branch either.
Republicans have suggested there were probably times when the Republicans should have accepted some offers, but the same went for the other side.
If either Republican or Democratic starting offer is any gauge, they've got a long row to hoe.
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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.