'Title VIII' Net Neutrality Bill Introduced

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) has introduced a bill, the 21st Century internet Act, that would codify the "four corners" of network neutrality, which the bill defines as no throttling, no blocking, no paid prioritization, and government oversight of interconnections. It remains an open question how much support such a bill will draw from other Republicans.

The FCC's 2015 Open Internet Order, which was essentially repealed by the current FCC last December, prevented blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization and classified interconnections under FCC Title II authority.

The Coffman bill would avoid the Title II fight by creating a new Title in the Communications Act--Title VIII -Broadband Internet Access Service--and putting FCC network neutrality oversight authority there.

Related: Net Reg Rollback Fans Say Sky Isn't Falling

Under the FCC's Restoring Internet Freedom order rolling back the old regs, the Federal Trade Commission has authority over net neutrality.

Most stakeholders say Congress should ultimately decide on the a broadband regulatory authority faramework, but finding a bipartisan solution remains an elusive goal, particularly given the partisan divide in Washington.

According to a summary of the bill obtained by B&C the bill would allow for content delivery networks (CDNs) and specialized services that were not used to evade net neutrality protections. It would also allow for reasonable network management.

The FCC would have jurisdiction over broadband internet access services and the general conduct standard in the 2015 Open Internet Order would be reinstated. The FCC would also be allowed to collect Universal Service Fund fees contributions from ISPs. The bill would prevent FCC rate regulation, something ISPs also want to prohibit.

“The fight to keep the internet open belongs in Congress, not at the Federal Communications Commission,” said Coffman. “The American people deserve to know that their elected officials, not unelected bureaucrats, are fighting for their interest. That fight begins with my bill, which will create an ‘internet constitution’ with the foundational elements of net neutrality.”

Coffman also announced Tuesday that he will sign on to the House Congressional Review Act resolution that would restore the old FCC rules, making him the first Republican to do so--it remains most of four dozen votes shy of the needed 218.Still, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) who sponsored the successful CRA on the Senate side, was hopeful, calling it "bipartisan momentum."“I hope more Republicans will join this effort and stand on the side of American families who rely on and overwhelmingly support a free and open internet. I reiterate my call on Speaker Ryan to immediately schedule a vote on the CRA resolution so we can put net neutrality rules back on the books as soon as possible.”

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.