Hill Dems Ramp Up Net Neutrality Regulation Restoration

Sen. Ed Markey
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Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) will reportedly introduce legislation in the next several weeks to reinstate the Title II classification for internet access providers as a way to restore the FCC's authority and the rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization. 

Also Read: Court Clears Way for California Net Neutrality Law

Democrats want to use new rules to get rid of "unfair data caps" as well, and argue reclassification will provide "firmer legal ground" for funding broadband through the Universal Service Fund.

The FCC in 2017 eliminated its net neutrality rules and effectively ceded authority over internet access to the Federal Trade Commission with the exception of some reporting requirements about service.

Also Read: Net Neutrality Push Is Coming to Shove

Sen. Markey has long pledged to restore the Title II designation and bright-line rules eliminated by the FCC under Republican Chairman Ajit Pai. For now, doing so will require Congressional action since the FCC is at a 2-2 political deadlock and neither Republican appears keen on restoring those regs.

Markey was joined by other Democratic legislators--including House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D-Pa.)--and net neutrality activists Tuesday (March 2) in signaling the push was on for new net neutrality regs.

 “Once we have three Democrats in place at the FCC, I will strongly urge the Commission to reverse the Trump FCC’s wrongheaded decision and restore net neutrality and the FCC’s authority over broadband," Markey said. "And in the coming weeks, I also plan to reintroduce legislation to do the same by statute.”  

 Title II is the common carrier designation that could allow the FCC to regulate rates or take other regulatory steps to insure nondiscriminatory access to the internet. The Dems and their activist allies argue that it is necessary to treat broadband like a utility (they use the term "essential service"), a point they say has been made more pressing during COVID-19.

Also Read: Comcast CEO Roberts Seeks More ‘Permanent’ Footing for Net Neutrality Laws

Both Republicans and Democrats (and some ISPs) have argued for legislation clarifying the FCC's authority over broadband, with some Republicans even supporting a return of bright-line rules, but the Republicans and ISPs only under a non-Title II regime, thus removing the threat of mandatory access and rate regulation.

Democrats generally argue that Title I is a non-starter and that only the Title II common carrier authority will secure an open internet.

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.