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US Democrats Unleash Bill to Reinstate Net Neutrality Rules

Jeff Baumgartner

US Congressional Democrats banded together Wednesday on a new bill that aims to reinstate network neutrality rules that were reversed by the FCC under President Donald Trump's administration.

The newly introduced bill -- the "Save the Internet Act" -- closely resembles the FCC's 2015 order that regulated the Internet as a Title II service and prohibited ISPs from blocking legal Internet content, throttling connections or using paid prioritization. The new bill would effectively shoot down the current FCC order – the Restoring Internet Freedom Order -- voted in by a commission led by Chairman Ajit Pai.

"It's a fight that we can win," Senator and bill sponsor Ed Markey said at a presser that introduced the bill. He said a companion bill will introduced to the House on Friday. Here's how it all went down:

The NCTA, the US cable industry's primary lobbying arm, has been game for bipartisan, enforceable, non-Title II rules from Congress that would put an end to the "infinite loop" of change that has occurred at the FCC with each new administration. The NCTA said the Democrat-led bill introduced today falls short of that goal in more ways than one.

"We are disappointed that Democratic leaders would ignore growing calls for bipartisan action, and instead advance a highly controversial, partisan proposal that puts the internet under heavy-handed government control," the NCTA said, adding that the Internet "does not need saving" while also referencing the cable industry's work around "10G" and new broadband technologies that will deliver symmetrical speeds of up to 10 Gbit/s. (See CES 2019: Cable's 10G Tech 'Will Work'.)

The FCC, through a statement from Pai spokeswoman Tina Pelkey, slammed the bill's attempt at returning to "heavy-handed" rules, holding that the current order's "light-touch approach to Internet regulation has been a success." She said the current order has "unleashed private investment, resulting in more fiber being deployed in 2018 than any year before and download speeds increasing by an astounding 36%."

In January, Congress attempted and failed to overturn the rollback of the rules established in 2015 under then-FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. The Senate passed a bill last May to reinstate the 2015 rules, but the US House of Representatives fell short of the votes needed.

A Mozilla-led group filed its petition against the FCC rules rollback last August with the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Related posts:

— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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