Week ahead in tech: Senate Republicans push net neutrality bill

A group of Senate Republicans is pushing a bill to eliminate the controversial Obama-era net neutrality rules, but their effort faces tough odds.

Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeRetreating economy creates new hurdle for Democrats in 2022 McConnell vows GOP won't help raise debt ceiling in December after Schumer 'tantrum' Senate locks in deal to vote on debt ceiling hike Thursday MORE (R-Utah) has unveiled legislation that would scrap the Federal Communications Commission rules that require internet service providers to treat all web traffic equally.

Lee's effort has a number of prominent GOP co-sponsors, including Sen. John CornynJohn CornynCornyn raises more than M for Senate GOP Is the Biden administration afraid of trade? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After high drama, Senate lifts debt limit MORE, the upper chamber's No. 2 Republican, and Sens. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - House debt vote today; Biden struggles to unite Arkansas legislature splits Little Rock in move that guarantees GOP seats The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate nears surprise deal on short-term debt ceiling hike MORE (Ark.), Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Colin Powell's death highlights risks for immunocompromised The Senate confirmation process is broken — Senate Democrats can fix it Australian politician on Cruz, vaccines: 'We don't need your lectures, thanks mate' MORE (Texas), Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonA pandemic of hyper-hypocrisy is infecting American politics Sen. Ron Johnson hoping for Democratic 'gridlock' on reconciliation package Republicans' mantra should have been 'Stop the Spread' MORE (Wis.), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulVaccine 'resisters' are a real problem Democrats fret as longshot candidates pull money, attention Journalist Dave Levinthal discusses 'uptick' in congressional stock trade violations MORE (Ky.), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisSenate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair GOP rallies around Manchin, Sinema Advocates frustrated by shrinking legal migration under Biden MORE (N.C.), Ben Sasse (Neb.), and James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofePowell death leads to bipartisan outpouring of grief Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Senators slam Pentagon officials Generals contradict Biden, say they advised leaving troops in Afghanistan MORE (Okla.).

The group is trying to rally support for the bill, including with a Friday op-ed in the Washington Post.

"We reject the idea that the federal government should control the Internet," Cruz, Johnson, and Lee wrote.

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But they face a number of challenges. The bill from Lee is unlikely to win over any Democrats, to help it get past the Senate's 60-vote threshold.

Democrats, who want to preserve as much of net neutrality as possible, were dismissive of Lee's effort.

Sens. Edward MarkeyEd MarkeySenate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair Biden likely to tap Robert Califf to return as FDA head Biden faces pressure to pass infrastructure bills before climate summit MORE (D-Mass.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharSenate Democrats ask for details on threats against election workers On The Money — Progressives play hard ball on Biden budget plan Schumer, McConnell headed for another collision over voting rights MORE (D-Minn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said they hadn't even read it. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said he didn't know what the purpose of the bill is.

And a key Republican isn't on board.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair GOP rallies around Manchin, Sinema McConnell gets GOP wake-up call MORE (R-S.D.), the chairman of the Commerce Committee, has been the lead on net neutrality issues and been working on his own legislation to address net neutrality.

Thune also, according to Democrats, has said he won't act without bipartisan support.

The Senate discussions on net neutrality also come as the Republican chairman of the Federal Communications Commission moves ahead with his own plan to roll back the rules.

Chairman Ajit Pai is preparing for a vote two weeks from now on his proposal at the FCC's May open meeting. The commissioners will vote on whether to begin the process of repealing net neutrality by opening the public comment period.

Pai's plan would scrap the "Title II" measure that subjects broadband providers to tougher regulations from the FCC. Instead, Pai would let the Federal Trade Commission regulate internet service providers.

Those companies would also be asked to voluntarily enshrine net neutrality principles, which they could include in their terms of service with customers.

Democrats and consumer and privacy advocacy groups who want to keep the rules in place, say they will mobilize the public to back the rules.

When the FCC first began considering net neutrality in 2014, the agency received millions of comments, a record, most in favor of the rules.

Lee, Cruz and Johnson in their op-ed Friday said their legislation is a "complement" to Pai's efforts.

GOP lawmakers worry that even if Pai rolls back net neutrality, that could be undone by a future Democratic FCC commissioner, and they want a legislative fix.

The tech world will also be keeping an eye on the French presidential elections on Sunday.

Both candidates, Marie Le Pen from the right-wing National Front, and neoliberal Emmanuel Macron, have championed policies that tech interests won't find favorable.

Le Pen has called for cracking down on immigration to France and for a referendum on leaving the European Union.

Macron, the heavy front-runner, has already taken aim at major U.S. tech companies over encryption. He's said he will make them "accept a legal framework for requisitions of encrypted services in the context of counter-terrorism efforts."

He also wants to renegotiate the Privacy Shield, a data collection sharing agreement between the U.S. and Europe.

On Capitol Hill, hearings next week will be sparse, with the House in recess.

On the Senate side, the Homeland Security and Governmental affairs committee will hold a hearing on cyber threats facing the U.S. on Tuesday morning.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on law enforcement access to data stored across borders. Among those testifying are Brad Smith, chief legal officer for Microsoft.

Just off the the Hill at the Newseum on Wednesday, Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeFlake donating unused campaign funds to Arizona nonprofit focused on elections: report Biden nominates former Sen. Tom Udall as New Zealand ambassador Biden to nominate Jane Hartley as UK ambassador: report MORE (R-Ariz.) will speak at the National Venture Capitalist Association annual meeting.

Flake is expected to share details on legislation to create start-up visas to attract business talent from overseas. Schatz will speak more generally on legislation relevant to startups and venture capital.

 

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