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 LeeThe self-fulfilling Iran prophecy No patriotic poll bump for Trump, but Soleimani strike may still help him politically Senators are politicians, not jurors — they should act like it 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 CornynHillicon Valley: UK allows Huawei to build 5G in blow to Trump | Lawmakers warn decision threatens intel sharing | Work on privacy bill inches forward | Facebook restricts travel to China amid virus Republicans signal renewed confidence they'll avoid witness fight Lawmakers warn US, UK intel sharing at risk after Huawei decision MORE, the upper chamber's No. 2 Republican, and Sens. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonOvernight Health Care — Presented by Philip Morris International — HHS has no plans to declare emergency over coronavirus | GOP senator calls for travel ban to stop outbreak | Warren releases plan to contain infectious diseases Hillicon Valley: UK allows Huawei to build 5G in blow to Trump | Lawmakers warn decision threatens intel sharing | Work on privacy bill inches forward | Facebook restricts travel to China amid virus Lawmakers warn US, UK intel sharing at risk after Huawei decision MORE (Ark.), Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCruz scolds reporter who brought up his daughters Can Democrats flip the Texas House? Today's result will provide a clue Republicans show little enthusiasm for impeachment witness swap MORE (Texas), Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonPerry delegation talking points stressed pushing Ukraine to deal with 'corruption' Overnight Energy: Democrats unveil draft climate bill | Plan aims for carbon neutrality by 2050 | GOP senators press IRS on electric vehicle tax credit Senate Republicans to meet Tuesday afternoon on witness question MORE (Wis.), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTrump allies throw jabs at Bolton over book's claims Overnight Defense: White House threatens to veto House Iran bills | Dems 'frustrated' after Iran briefing | Lawmakers warn US, UK intel sharing at risk after Huawei decision Foreign Relations Democrats 'deeply frustrated' after Iran briefing MORE (Ky.), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisSenators ready for question time in impeachment trial Progressive group targeting vulnerable GOP senators on impeachment witnesses Progressive group launches campaign targeting vulnerable GOP senators on impeachment MORE (N.C.), Ben Sasse (Neb.), and James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeGOP Foreign Affairs leaders join pushback against potential troop drawdown in Africa Democrats say Trump ceded right to block Bolton when he attacked him Broad, bipartisan rebuke for proposal to pull troops from Africa 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 MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyTrump allies throw jabs at Bolton over book's claims White House Correspondents' Association blasts State for 'punitive action' against NPR Senate Democrat demands State Department reinstate NPR reporter on Pompeo trip MORE (D-Mass.), Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharSanders opens up 15-point lead in New Hampshire: Poll Poll: 56 percent of Democrats say billionaire politicians more likely to cater to special interests Support for Biden, Sanders ticks up nationally: poll 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 ThuneGOP confident of win on witnesses Republicans signal renewed confidence they'll avoid witness fight The Hill's Morning Report - Bolton charge ups ante in witness showdown 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 FlakeThe Hill's 12:30 Report: House managers to begin opening arguments on day two Flake: Republicans don't speak out against Trump 'because they want to keep their jobs' GOP senator calls CNN reporter a 'liberal hack' when asked about Parnas materials 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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