House, Senate Dems Propose Net Neutrality Bill

Reps. Henry Waxman and Anna Eshoo, both California Democrats, have introduced the Open Internet Preservation Act, which would reinstate the FCC's anti-blocking and anti-discrimination rules until the commission can figure out how to reinstate them. Senate Commerce Committee member Ed Markey (D-Mass.) is introducing the Senate version.

They were joined by a handful of Democratic senators, led by Markey and veteran net neutrality backer Al Franken of Minnesota.

The rules were vacated by a Federal appeals court, which said that while the FCC had the power to regulate broadband access, it had not properly justified it under current law and the FCC's current classification of broadband as an information service.

“With the recent D.C. Circuit appeals court ruling, the open Internet as we know it suffered a blow. By striking down rules that prevented broadband providers from discriminating against or even blocking online content, the Court’s decision threatens the openness and freedom that has defined the success of the Internet.  Although the Court struck down the FCC’s ‘no-blocking’ and ‘nondiscrimination’ rules, it explicitly affirmed the agency’s authority to oversee broadband services in the United States,” said Eshoo in a statement. Eshoo is ranking member of the Communications Subcommittee and has just announced her candidacy for the top Democratic spot on the parent Energy & Commerce Committee, currently held by Waxman, who announced last week he would be retiring.

“I am pleased to be an original cosponsor of legislation preserving the FCC's ability to enforce net neutrality rules that keep the Internet open from gatekeeper interference," added Rep. Doris Matsui, also a Democrat from California, home to Silicon Valley and the computer and online companies pushing hard for net neutrality protections.

"While the D.C. Circuit affirmed the FCC’s authority to oversee broadband services, this legislation is necessary to restore anti-blocking and non-discrimination rules in the interim," said Matsui. "These basic rules of the road are necessary to protect both consumers and innovators."

“We’re pleased that members of Congress are pushing the FCC to restore the no-blocking and nondiscrimination provisions that were at the heart of the FCC’s Net Neutrality rules," said Chancellor Williams, associate policy director, Free Press Action Fund, in a statement. "And as the recent court decision made clear, the only way the FCC can implement these critical protections is by first reclassifying broadband as a common-carrier service."

The bill, however, does not do that.

"This proposal will certainly be a part of the discussion as we work toward a #CommActUpdate," Said House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), talking about a multi-year effort that is likely to long a timeline for Democrats eager to restore the network neutrality status quo. "However, we remain vigorously opposed to any attempt to install the FCC as the traffic cop of the Internet. Innovation, job creation, and consumer choice have all flourished without so-called Net Neutrality rules, and a departure from that framework would certainly put American leadership in communications and technology in jeopardy."

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.