Republican bill seeks bipartisan compromise
A new bill proposed by Congressional Republicans this month aims to create a bipartisan compromise over the issue of net neutrality, but some are skeptical that the legislation will do enough to protect consumers.
“Net neutrality” is the idea that internet service providers (ISPs) should give users equal access to all content and apps, and that they should not be allowed to censor, favor, speed up, or slow down different types of content. Most legislators agree that net neutrality is important, but there are contrasting ideas about how to achieve it and who should be allowed to regulate it.
The bill is meant to pre-empt a plan proposed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Tom Wheeler. The FCC is set to vote on the plan on February 26. He hopes to reinstate several rules that were struck down by a federal court in 2012.
With President Obama’s encouragement, this plan would reclassify broadband services under Title II of the Communications Act so that the FCC could regulate broadband as a utility.
Internet providers are strongly opposed
This reclassification has been vehemently opposed by ISPs, who argue that this change will stifle innovation and investment. Said co-author of the Republican bill, Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune (R-SD), “By turning the FCC away from a heavy-handed and messy approach to regulating the internet, this draft protects both consumers who rely on Internet services and innovators who create jobs.”
Like Wheeler’s plan, the Republican bill would also reinstate the regulations that were struck down in 2012, but without reclassifying broadband as a utility. ISPs would be prevented from blocking, speeding, or slowing access to sites, but broadband would remain classified as a Title 1 service under the Communications Act, and the FCC would have no authority to regulate ISPs.
Early advocates balk at the new proposal
Massachusetts Democratic Senator Ed Markey, who wrote the first net neutrality legislation, says that the Republican’s proposed bill “should be called the Big Broadband Baron Act.”
He calls is a “legislative wolf in sheep’s clothing, offering a select few safeguards while undermining basic consumer, privacy, and accessibility protections.” He thinks the bill will give ISPs too much power, while disproportionately affecting internet users who are “low-income, disabled, senior and rural” and that it would “undermine competition in the telecommunications marketplace.”
Hearings about the proposed legislation are ongoing in both the House and Senate.