Thune Calls Network Neutrality Hearing

It will be all network neutrality all the time next Wednesday (Jan. 21), with hearings on both the House and Senate side on bicameral—and perhaps bipartisan—legislation that would attempt to head off Title II reclassification while preventing online discrimination, blocking, and ISP/edge-directed paid prioritization.

In addition to the House Energy & Commerce Committee hearing in the morning, the Senate Commerce Committee is holding one in the afternoon. Not a surprise, since the draft legislation in the works was announced jointly by Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the parent Energy & Commerce Committee, and John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of Senate Commerce.

Sen. Thune said the hearing would feature nongovernment witnesses talking about the FCC's authority and Congress' options for updating laws. The committee did not say who those witnesses would be, but it sounds like lawyers and legal scholars would be on the list.

Thune also elaborated the 11 principles he thinks should be in bipartisan rules for the "Internet Age" and they sound much like what Democrats, including the President and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, have been calling for.

They are: "Prohibit blocking, prohibit throttling, prohibit paid prioritization, require transparency, apply rules to both wireline and wireless, allow for reasonable network management, allow for specialized services, protect consumer choice, classify broadband Internet access as an information service under the Communications Act [Ok, the President doesn't want that and Wheeler is leaning away], Clarify that Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act may not be used as a grant of regulatory authority, and direct the FCC to enforce and abide by these principles."

"Clear and reasonable rules are what every business and consumer needs and expects," said Thune in annoucing the hearing. "[T]his also applies to the Internet. The FCC currently has limited options to write rules that escape the uncertainty of litigation while protecting innovation. Clear statutory authority from Congress is necessary to update FCC authority for the Internet Age, escape court challenges, and avoid regulatory overreach from outdated laws."

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.