House panel to hold hearing on net neutrality, internet 'fast lanes'

House panel to hold hearing on net neutrality, internet 'fast lanes'
© Greg Nash

The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing later this month on internet fast lanes, a major source of concern for net neutrality supporters and a sticking point in efforts to come up with a bipartisan net neutrality bill.

A committee spokeswoman confirmed to The Hill on Tuesday that the panel’s technology subcommittee will hold a hearing on the issue of paid prioritization on April 17.

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In December, the Republican-led Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to repeal the agency’s net neutrality rules, which banned internet service providers from blocking or throttling web traffic. The regulations also prohibited paid prioritization, or charging web services for faster speeds.

“While most everyone agrees on no blocking and no throttling, we need to get the policy right on the impact of prioritization,” the spokeswoman said in an email. “The goal of this hearing is bringing folks to the table for a good faith conversation on the issue.”

Politico first reported the news about the hearing on Tuesday.

Despite widespread support in the GOP for the FCC’s action, most Republicans want to replace the net neutrality rules with legislation. They argue that codifying the principles into law will end the regulatory uncertainty that the telecom industry faces with the prospect that the rules will change every time the White House switches parties.

But most Democrats have resisted calls for compromise legislation. Many are angry about the FCC’s dismantling of the popular Obama-era rules and believe that any bill that a GOP-dominated Congress can come up with will be toothless compared to the 2015 regulations.

Net neutrality activists and Democrats are also trying to make net neutrality a campaign issue, betting the issue will work against Republicans in this fall's midterm elections.

It’s still unclear who will be testifying at the paid prioritization hearing later this month. But Democrats, most of whom are backing a legislative effort to nullify the FCC vote, are unlikely to be moved toward a compromise bill anytime soon.