Eshoo Says Her Net Neutrality Bill Won't Pass

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), whose Silicon Valley district includes Facebook, Google, and Mozilla, introduced a bill to restore the FCC's network neutrality rules, but concedes it won't become law.

Eshoo, the ranking member of the House Communications Subcommittee, was asked in an interview for C-SPAN's Communicators series about the bill, which she introduced after the D.C. Federal Appeals Court threw out the FCC's anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules, the heart of its Open Internet order.

She said the bill "essentially keeps in place the rules of the road if it were adopted, which it will not be."

So why introduce it? She suggested it was to make a point. "I think that setting a bill down in the Congress of the United States in the form that it is in really reflects millions and millions and millions of people in our country, and most frankly around the world, that want the Internet to remain accessible and open and free to them."

She called that an important principle.

Eshoo said she had read the D.C. Circuit decision on net neutrality and that Verizon had not wanted the FCC to have "any authority in broadband," and that the court's response was that the FCC does retain authority over broadband.

She said network neutrality now "will be in the hands of the FCC," which she says has a roadmap and a "deep and broad awareness" of what has made the Internet the force that it is. "So, let's see what they do."

She advised the FCC to be cautious to insure that whatever it does passes muster with the court, which vacated the rules but remanded them back to the FCC saying it could take another crack at better justifying them.

House E&C Republicans have declared 2014 the year of the Communications Act rewrite review, but Eshoo wasn't sounding particularly sanguine about it. She told C-SPAN that it took many attempts to write the 1996 Act, and that it would be a "long, winding road."

She said it would not be something that gets done in nine months or 18 months. The Republican committee leadership are looking to 2015 for getting down to rewrite businesses.

Eshoo has introduced a bill to reform retrans, which includes preventing blackouts and taking retrans stations out of the must-buy tier, so she does not want that effort to be put on the "winding road" route. "I think that we should have an appreciation of the things we can accomplish in the short term and not put them off for six or seven years."

Pressed about retrans, she said that was one of those short-term things that should not be put off and that it could be done through the reauthorization of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act, which must be renewed by the end of this year or it will expire.

He said she was working with Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) on their respective video reform bills. Scalise's Next Generation Television Marketplace Act would repeal retrans, while Eshoo's Video CHOICE Act would prevent retrans blackouts, remove the must-buy status of retrans stations on cable systems, unbundle owned or affected cable nets from TV stations in retrans deals, and more.

"I do think we have the capacity to address this [blackouts]," she said. "It's not a sustainable business model."

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.