Skip to main content

Sen. Nelson: Bipartisan Net Neutrality Bill Appears 'Impossible'

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, said Wednesday that while he continued to talk with committee chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) about a bipartisan net neutrality bill, the current reality is that "there are too many folks, from [FCC] chairman Ajit Pai to the stakeholders and lawmakers who are dug in on a particular side of this issue, so it is making compromise an impossible task."

That came in opening remarks in a Senate Commerce Committee hearing Wednesday on broadband deployment.

Nelson said consumers "deserve better" than chairman Pai's proposal (to roll back Title II classification for both wired and wireless broadband, eliminate the general conduct standard, remove interconnection from net neutrality oversight, and review the Open Internet rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization).

"Consumers need to know that we have their back and they deserve certainty and finality when it comes to their essential right to a truly free and open Internet protected by clear, enforceable net neutrality rules."

Nelson said he was an optimist but that it was "pretty clear that the climate just isn't right at the moment for a legislative solution that would lead to real, substantive legislation that would garner sufficient bipartisan support."

He said that finality could only come from legislation, bipartisan legislation he said he was still open to, so long as it did more than pay lip service to net neutrality and provided the FCC with "flexible and forward looking authority over broadband providers." He said that otherwise, they would remain in a "never, never land" of FCC decisions and court challenges.

He said that didn't mean they shouldn't be trying, and he would continue to try.

ISPs have said they could abide by rules, just not the "nuclear option" of Title II reclassification.

"And try we will," responded Thune, saying "it was important for Congress to be heard from on this subject." But he clearly saw FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's actions a bit differently. "I think that the actions being proposed by the FCC are going to provide, hopefully, the necessary impetus for us to move forward with a legislative solution."

He said that everyone who has been "batting this subject around a lot realizes that the uncertainty created by constant lawsuits and changing administrations isn't something that's good for what has been a remarkable success story…"

Thune said certainty was necessary and the best way to achieve that is through legislation.