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Legislative Net Neutrality Solution Draws A Crowd

While Senate Democrats were suggesting Tuesday that the FCC's Open Internet order is fine as is and nothing is needed to be done to alter those protections—either legislatively and certainly not a rollback by the FCC—a legislative solution to resolve the issue was getting a lot of votes from outside groups Tuesday.

That came after Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Al Franken (D-Minn.) and others held a press conference to say they would fight any attempts by the FCC to reverse the Open Internet order or legislative attempts in a Republican-controlled Congress to weaken it.

In a joint press statement, The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council, the National Urban League and others called for "a permanent statutory solution that enshrines the basic open internet principles into law. 

"These core principles are not controversial and should not be subject to endless litigation, regulation, and reconsideration.  A statute locking in net neutrality would protect net neutrality no matter how the political winds blow."

Mike Montgomery, executive director of CALinnovates, says it is past time for some legislative certainty.

“To quote Yogi Berra, ‘It’s déjà vu all over again,’" he said. "Well into a decade of debate about Net Neutrality, it simply won’t go away. CALinnovates takes very little satisfaction in saying we saw this coming, but we’ve been calling for a Third Way that could affirmatively cement the tenets of Net Neutrality into law forever. Instead, Net Neutrality is apparently back on the table, perhaps having experienced a slightly longer shelf life than a ripe banana.

“By passing bipartisan Net Neutrality legislation, Congress can enshrine lasting laws into place that will remain immune to the whims of any particular administration and survive partisan politics. A regulatory roller coaster makes consumers and the business community queasy. Let’s settle this issue once and for all. The time is now.”

Software developers were looking to the Hill for some clarity as well. "As both the Federal Communications Commission and Congress consider how to address the rules that would govern oversight of the Internet, both government bodies and both political parties should consider the stabilizing value of legislation," said Developers Alliance president Jake Ward. "The open Internet must be ensured permanently; more years of litigation will simply create uncertainty that will undermine developers efforts to innovate and invest in our technology future. We welcome a legislative discussion that will provide the certainty that developers crave.

"[House Energy & Commerce Committee chairman] Rep. Greg Walden [R-Ore.] still wants to work with Democrats on a lasting compromise. This decade-long battle has always been first and foremost about the FCC’s increasingly broad claims of legal authority. And despite what you heard today, that fight isn’t over: Yes, a three judge panel upheld the FCC’s rules, but a scathing dissent laid out a road map for the Supreme Court, if not the full D.C. Circuit, to block Title II. Resolving the FCC’s legal authority in Congress would finally put this polarizing, partisan issue to rest.”

TechFreedom said that a "bipartisan legislative compromise" was "the only way forward on net neutrality." 

“Even with a Republican-controlled White House, Congress, and FCC, Rep. Greg Walden still wants to work with Democrats on a lasting compromise," said TechFreedom president Berin Szóka.

"Today’s Senate press conference and recent comments from Sen. John Thune [who says there are talks on compromise legislation, but that they are "not there yet"] are hopefully the first steps toward a positive resolution to the net neutrality issue, namely Congressional legislation that protects neutrality, provides long-term legal consistency and eliminates problems caused by the FCC’s Title II regulation."

The sticking point will be whether Democrats and Republicans can agree on an approach. Republicans are unlikely to agree to legislation enshrining a Title II, common carrier, classification for ISPs, while some Democrats would see anything short of Title II as weakening net neutrality.

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.