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Sens. Markey, Franken Head Off Net-Neutrality Blocker

Some top Senate Democrats are urging congressional Republicans not to try and block the FCC's new network-neutrality rules via a final budget agreement, saying they will pull out all the stops to stop them.

There was no such rider, or riders, on the stop-gap appropriations bill that pushed off a final bill until at least Dec. 11, but they could return on a longer-term, omnibus bill.

That is according to Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) who held a press conference Wednesday (Oct. 7) to highlight what they say is a Republican push to include a rider or riders in the omnibus budget bill. Markey pointed to three net neutrality-related riders currently on a House budget bill and one on a Senate budget bill, any of which could be added to the omnibus bill by Republicans.

Such legislative gambits do not usually make it into law, but Markey, waxing eloquent, said that "eternal vigilance is the price you must pay for freedom and liberty." But putting a finer point on it, said that in the past Republicans have been able to attach some riders on some issues in end-of-the year bills. "There is a history and Sen. [Roger] Wicker [R-Miss.] just the other day said that Republicans have intentionally paced the bill with rider after rider and that they hope they can save as many of them as they can in the negotiation process." He said that if if they are going to be that aggressive, "then we have to match it with a counter push that is at least as strong." If not, he said, the Republicans, in service of the "Big Broadband Barons' will undo the important rules.

Some Republicans have been trying to use defunding the rules implementation via the budget or other legislative maneuvers to block Title II reclassification, which they argue is an FCC power grab and an innovation and investment turn-off.

Democrats see it very differently, arguing that the rules are an FCC attempt to preserve a free and open Internet and appropriately respond to a court remand giving them the opportunity to restore the rules under better legal justification.

Markey and Franken said they would work with other Democrats to make sure the riders did not make it onto a final bill, but if it did Markey said he would expect the President should and would veto such a bill.

"Without this critical consumer protection, Republicans would give an unprecedented amount of power and influence to Internet Service Providers, allowing them to discriminate against their users and choose the kinds of the content they provide," said the Franken office e-mail announcing the senator's plans. "This dangerous rider and push by Congressional Republicans undermines the right of Americans to have access to a free and open internet."

That push comes only two days after cable and telco ISPs and others filed court briefs in their challenge to the FCC Open Internet order.

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.