Democrats Head Off GOP on Net Neutrality Bill

Kicking off the latest round of political squabbling over net neutrality, Congressional Democrats have revived a bill banning paid prioritization agreements between content providers and service providers.

Just a day after new members of Congress were seated, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) reintroduced The Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act.

The bill, which the two legislators initially introduced last year, "would help prevent the creation of a two-tiered Internet system, ensuring start-ups and entrepreneurs have access to the marketplace and ensuring consumers can access all content equally," according to a statement on Leahy's website.

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The Democrats are getting ahead of the Republicans, who now hold majorities in both the House and Senate, and who are expected to introduce their own net neutrality legislation later this month.

The Republican bill would "likely give the FCC clearer, explicit authority to regulate net neutrality," according to The Washington Post. That provision could win over some Democrats, but the Republican bill would explicitly ban the agency from classifying Internet providers as Title II carriers. (See Congress, FCC Prep Net Neutrality, OTT Action.)

Meanwhile, the most conservative Republicans oppose any net neutrality regulation or legislation at all. And President Obama, who has veto power, supports both net neutrality and Title II. (See Obama Backs Net Neutrality, Stuns Industry.)

The FCC plans to vote on net neutrality next month.

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to [email protected].

mhhf1ve 1/7/2015 | 7:21:13 PM
Our legislative bodies actually writing laws?! I don't think this is going to go anywhere... legislators won't be able to agree on a net neutrality bill/law - and the FCC is supposed to be trying to handle this on its own right now, so this is all a strange political sideshow to show that people are still interested in the topic of net neutrality. In the end, the FCC needs to make some decisions, and then those decisions need to be held up by the courts... and then we'll have something. Until the wireless version needs to be settled.
danielcawrey 1/7/2015 | 8:00:57 PM
Re: Our legislative bodies actually writing laws?! I would say that anyone who supports digital innovation should support net neutrality. However, I think that the telcos have a vested interest in figuring out how to bend the rules in thier favor.

Here's hoping they don't slide some silly provisions into any government regulation for this cause. I'm not entirely hopeful that can be stopped, however. 
jabailo 1/8/2015 | 6:47:17 AM
Two Tiered? N-Tiered with SDN! Sometimes I think the Obama Administration thinks the Internet is still run on dialup.  For all of us here at Light Reading, we have to be shaking our heads and laughing.  All we do is discuss how SDN can provide customized networks and channels in a divisible hardware world.   We could have free channels (lanes) and paid lanes.  With Gig-a-hood bandwidth there's plenty of room to be allocated.  We can have limited but unblocked channels, legislated for public and emergency access, and at the same time have premium channels.  We can take these up and down faster than you can say Congressional Recess!


Duh! 1/8/2015 | 10:25:42 AM
Re: Our legislative bodies actually writing laws?! Good legislation would be preferable to having the Commission try to force fit broadband ISPs into the Title II regime, or having to rely on a broad interpretation of Section 706(b) as a grant of authority. The 1996 Act was written around th obsolete Computer II classifications of "Telecommunications Services" and "Information Services".  Broadband ISPs do not fit into either category. Which leaves too much policy in the hands of the courts.

The problem is whether we can trust either side to get it right. Both sides would micro-manage the FCC: the Dems to freeze a platonic ideal of the Internet into law, and the Reps to take any authority away from the FCC.  The wise solution would be to legislate a new regulatory framework, set policy objectives, and let the FCC figure out the details.  Unfortunately, nobody will ever accuse this Congress of being wise.

kq4ym 1/8/2015 | 11:19:25 AM
Re: Our legislative bodies actually writing laws?! It may be a real betting event to guess which way the FCC will rule next month. That is if they actually rule and don't put it off even longer. You can bet there's going to be lot of lobbyist on phones and knocking on doors to promote their industry views.
Mitch Wagner 1/8/2015 | 11:29:25 AM
Re: Our legislative bodies actually writing laws?! The FCC has an excellent record of procrastinating ruling on net neutrality. We're into the 13th year now!
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