Senate Dem warns net neutrality rider could prevent compromise


A top Senate Democrat warned that a net neutrality rider included in a financial services appropriations bill could scuttle any hope of a compromise on the issue. 

Sen. Bill Nelson’s (D-Fla.) office made the announcement ahead of a markup of the spending bill slated for Thursday morning. Nelson and Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) have made “real progress” on a deal, his office said.  

{mosads}“Sens. Thune and Nelson have been making real progress on bipartisan net-neutrality legislation, but that effort could be undermined if lawmakers try to fiddle with the FCC in a funding bill,” Nelson spokesman Dan McLaughlin said. 

The Senate rider would block the FCC from using the new net neutrality rules to regulate the rates that Internet service providers like Comcast or AT&T can charge customers. 

The net neutrality regulations to require that Internet service providers treat all Internet traffic equally took effect last month, but the commission has said it has no intention of regulating rates. 

Republicans strongly oppose the rules, however, and fear a creep toward further regulation.

A parallel spending bill in the House has gone further.

In addition to the ban on rate regulation, the lower chamber’s version would outright block the net neutrality rules until a court battle is settled. GOP senators said they didn’t go as far because they were giving some deference to Thune’s and Nelson’s work. 

Thune and other Commerce Committee Republicans in the House floated legislation earlier this year that would enact many of the net neutrality provisions that advocates have supported but would also scale back some of the FCC’s authority. 

While Nelson said he has made headway on a compromise with the GOP, little public progress has been announced since the legislation was floated at the beginning of the year. 

Many other Democrats have been satisfied to let the FCC’s rules stand on their own. They have also raised major concerns about limiting the FCC’s authority with the GOP bill. 

The rider in the Senate Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill to be voted on Thursday is catching criticism from public advocacy groups as well. Even though the commission has vowed not to regulate rates, advocates say the provision was written too broadly in the House. 

The Senate’s language has not yet been released. 

“The rider that prohibits rate regulation in the net neutrality decision could prevent the FCC from addressing basic concerns on IP networks such as interconnection disputes that leave consumers without access to parts of the Internet and discriminatory data caps that eliminate online choices for consumers,” Public Knowledge said in a statement. “If the rider is written broadly, it could even limit the ability for the FCC to manage universal service for broadband or solve rural call completion problems on IP networks.”

Tags Bill Nelson John Thune Net neutrality Senate Appropriations Committee

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