Sen. Markey To Introduce Net Neutrality Bill

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.)

With no progress expected on new network neutrality rules out of a politically tied FCC anytime soon, net neutrality fan Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) is introducing net neutrality legislation Thursday (July 28).

The Washington Post had signaled two weeks ago a bill was in the offing.

Markey, along with bill co-sponsors Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) is unveiling the bill on a Zoom call and Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) on the r/politics subreddit.

The bill is billed as "appropriately" classifying internet access as "an essential service" as well as reinstating the FCC's authority to prevent blocking, throttling and paid prioritization, which were the heart of the FCC's net neutrality rules that were eliminated under Republican FCC chairman Ajit Pai.
Also: Democrats Propose Broadband Subsidies Be Used to Promote Net Neutrality

Joining the legislators on the AMA, according to Markey's office, will be Jessica González, co-CEO of Free Press Action; and Jenna Leventoff, senior policy council at public knowledge.

Any legislative action on net neutrality rules would also be a tall order anytime soon, particularly if the bill's appropriate essential service classification means reclassifying internet access from a Title I information service back to a Title II common carrier service--which the Post suggested was the case and Markey's office's description does as well. That would mean mandatory access and at least the possibility of rate regulation, either before the fact or after.

While both Democrats and Republicans have said they agree that Congress should step in to stop the FCC pendulum swings of reclassification from Title II to Title I, depending on the political makeup of the FCC, by clarifying the FCC's authority and coming up with rules against blocking, throttling and anticompetitive paid prioritization. But Republicans are solidly against Title II-based rules, and not even all Democrats are apparently convinced that is the way to go.

Markey has been pushing for Title II reclassification ever since the Pai FCC eliminated the rules. 

The Computer & Communications Industry Association, whose members include some of the biggest of Big Tech, was applauding the bill after it was unveiled. “Many Americans only have one choice of high speed broadband access provider and thus have nowhere to turn to work, shop, study, and communicate should their service provider limit or deny their access to lawful content and services," said CCIA President Matt Schruers. "CCIA remains committed to ensuring that consumers’ access to an open Internet is not slowed, impeded, or deprioritized."■

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.