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House Republican offers net neutrality replacement bill

House Republican offers net neutrality replacement bill
© Greg Nash

Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnGOP-affiliated voters outperforming Democrats in key states’ early voting: report Democrats slide in battle for Senate Katy Perry praises Taylor Swift for diving into politics MORE (R-Tenn.) on Tuesday introduced a bill that would replace some of the net neutrality rules that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed last week, though critics say that the legislation falls short of the previous protections.

Blackburn’s bill would prohibit internet service providers from blocking or throttling web content. But it would still allow companies such as Verizon and Comcast to charge websites for faster data speeds, and it pre-empts states from implementing stronger net neutrality protections.

The Tennessee Republican, who chairs the House Commerce subcommittee on technology, wrote on Twitter, “No blocking. No throttling. The Open Internet Preservation Act will ensure the internet is a free and open space. This legislation is simple, it provides light-touch regulation so companies can invest and innovate, and make sure our internet is up to 21st century standards.”

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In an interview with Breitbart News announcing the bill, Blackburn said it’s intended to “settle the net neutrality debate.”

But groups that tried to prevent the FCC’s rollback say that the bill is just a watered-down version of the popular rules.

“The proposal circulated today does not meet the criteria for basic net neutrality protections — including bright-line rules and a ban on paid prioritization — and will not provide consumers the protections they need to have guaranteed access to the entire internet,” said Michael Beckerman, head of the Internet Association, a trade group that represents tech giants such as Facebook and Google.

“Net Neutrality in name only is not enough to protect our economy or the millions of Americans that want and rely on these rules,” Beckerman said.

One of the biggest concerns about the repeal of the FCC’s rules is that it will open the door for internet fast lanes, forcing sites to pay broadband companies for rapid service. Net neutrality supporters argue that this will disproportionately hurt internet startups and hamper innovation.

“This is not real net neutrality legislation,” said Evan Greer, an activist with the group Fight for the Future. “It’s a poorly disguised slap in the face to Internet users from across the political spectrum. Blackburn’s bill would explicitly allow Internet providers to demand new fees from small businesses and Internet users, carving up the web into fast lanes and slow lanes.”

It remains to be seen whether the bill has momentum or will get any support from Democrats, who have been pushing to block the FCC’s repeal from going into effect with their own legislation. Democratic state attorneys general and consumer groups have also promised to sue the FCC in order to preserve the rules.