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House to Debate Internet Freedom Bill

The House is expected late Tuesday to debate H.R. 1580, the
Internet Freedom Bill, which has the backing of both the Republican and
Democratic leaders of the House Communications Subcommittee. It will be brought
up without amendments and is expected to pass after Republicans agreed to
modify it slightly over Democrat concerns it could undercut the FCC's
regulatory authority.

The bill would codify a congressional resolution passed last
year championing a multistakeholder model of Internet governance.

The bill passedout of the full committee with bipartisan support last month after
Republicans agreed to excise language in the bill -- making it U.S. policy "to
promote a global Internet free from government control" -- that the Dems
thought could threaten the FCC's ability to enforce network neutrality rules.

In his floor statement, a copy of which was supplied to B&C/Multichannel News, bill backer Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman
of the House Communications Subcommittee, reiterated that the policy statement
to that effect would not have created any statutory responsibilities. Walden,
who agreed to drop the phrase, opposes the net neutrality rules, which are
currently under court review.

The bill is designed to help combat efforts by China,
Russia, Arab states and others to create a more top-down international model of
Internet governance, a battle on which Republicans and Democrats are squarely
on the same side.

"Passing H.R. 1580 will show we are united
against efforts by authoritarian nations to exert their grip on the
Internet," he plans to tell his colleagues on the House floor. "For
the sake of the Internet and the social and economic freedom it brings, I urge
my colleagues to vote for the bill."

The House debate comes the same day that the World Telecommunications/ICT Policy Forum (WTPF) opens in Geneva, the first big Internet policy conclave since the ITU treaty conference in Dubai last December. It was that conference that prompted the initial sense of Congress resolution on the multistakeholder model.

The U.S. ultimately  walked away from that treaty without signing it after Internet-related language was inserted their vocal opposition.