Dem bill would reinstate net neutrality rules

Democrats in Congress are pushing legislation that would bring back the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) net neutrality rules.

Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) led a dozen other Democrats in calling for the rules to be reinstated to prevent Internet service providers from treating websites differently online.

“The Internet is an engine of economic growth because it has always been an open platform for competition and innovation,” said Waxman, the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, in a statement.

“Our bill very simply ensures that consumers can continue to access the content and applications of their choosing online.  

ADVERTISEMENT
The Open Internet Preservation Act would restore the FCC regulations struck down by a federal appeals court earlier this month until the commission decided to take new actions on the issue.

The bill is likely to meet strong opposition from Republicans in Congress, who have said that the rules allowed the federal government to have too much influence in the operation of the Internet. 

“That’s sort of like beating a dead horse,” said Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas). “We think the current guidelines are more than adequate. We think the Internet is flourishing.”

The FCC’s net neutrality rules, called the Open Internet order, prevented Internet providers from blocking or slowing access to specific websites. Web providers have complained that popular websites like Netflix use large amounts of bandwidth and should be treated accordingly.

Consumer advocacy groups have said that the rules were critical to ensuring all content is treated fairly online. 

Christopher Lewis, the vice president for government affairs at Public Knowledge, said in a statement that the bill introduced on Monday would “protect consumers by ensuring we all have equal access to any content online.”

Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit overturned the FCC’s rules. The decision was a major blow to the agency and President Obama, who had championed the rules.

In a discussion on the social network Google Plus last week, Obama said that has “cared deeply” about net neutrality “ever since I ran for office.”

"The FCC I know and Tom Wheeler are looking at all the options at their disposal. Potential appeals, potential rulemaking, a variety of tools that they may have in order to continue to vindicate the notion of a free and open Internet,” he added. 

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is working on updating the 1996 law regulating communications services. 

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), head of the panel's Communications and Technology subcommittee, said in a statement that the new bill “will certainly be a part of the discussion” in that process.

“However, we remain vigorously opposed to any attempt to install the FCC as the traffic cop of the Internet,” he said.