Leahy, Matsui Reintroducing Paid Priority Ban Bill

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) are reintroducing legislation in the Senate and House that would require the FCC to ban paid prioritization agreements between ISPs and content providers.

Leahy is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Matsui a member of the House Communications Subcommittee, both of which have oversight of communications issues.

The Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act, which the pair first introduced last June would: 1) "require the FCC to use its existing authority to prohibit paid prioritization agreements between Internet Service Providers (ISP) and content providers on the last mile Internet connection, the connection between the ISP and the consumer," and 2) "prohibit broadband providers from prioritizing or otherwise giving preferential treatment to its own last mile Internet traffic or the traffic of its affiliates over the traffic of others."

The move comes as FCC chairman Tom Wheeler is targeting a February vote on new network neutrality rules. His initial proposal was to allow commercially reasonable prioritization, though he has signaled that anticompetitive paid priority would not be commercially reasonable.

But since that initial proposal, net neutrality activists have pushed back hard on any paid prioritization and it is unclear how Wheeler will handle the issue in the planned February order.

The bill also is being introduced in a Congress in which both Houses are controlled by Republicans, who are not inclined to support a paid prioritization ban. So, it is mostly a signal of continued support for banning paid priority by those already on record in support of the ban.

Bill co-sponsors include Democratic Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Democratic Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), ranking member of the Communications Subcommittee, Janice Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Michael Honda (D-Calif.), Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.) and Mark Takano (D-Calif.).

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.