Net neutrality is back in play as Democratic lawmakers announce a bill |

Net neutrality is back in play as Democratic lawmakers announce a bill

The Washington Post

House and Senate Democratic leaders are expected to unveil new legislation Wednesday proposing to restore federal net neutrality rules on Internet providers such as AT&T and Verizon, in their latest attempt to countermand the Republican-led Federal Communications Commission.

Here’s what you need to know.

What’s in the bill?

As written, the draft legislation would reverse the FCC’s 2017 vote to repeal its net neutrality rules and restore the 2015 regulations approved during the Obama era. In their announcement of a news conference Wednesday, Democratic leaders are positioning the legislation as an answer to the “disastrous repeal” of the government’s 2015 net neutrality rules.

“Republicans will have a second chance – there are second chances! – to right the Trump administration’s wrong,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, a Democrat.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the bill would ensure that entrepreneurs will have a level playing field on the internet.

“With the Save the Internet Act, Democrats are honoring the will of the people,” she said.

The FCC responded Wednesday by defending its repeal of the net neutrality rules, saying it has “proven wrong the many hysterical predictions of doom from 2017, most notably the fantasy that market-based regulation would bring about ‘the end of the Internet as we know it.’ “

What’s different this time?

For much of the past year, Democrats’ legislative strategy revolved around the Congressional Review Act. The CRA allows Congress to simply overrule the actions of a federal agency within a certain window of time. But although the resolution to restore the net neutrality rules passed the Senate, House lawmakers ran out of time.

Lawmakers seeking a net neutrality bill this time around have to do so within the conventional legislative process.

What are the bill’s prospects?

Democrats control the House. But with Republicans in control of the Senate, the legislation could be dead-on-arrival there unless the two parties agree to negotiate a compromise. Even then, it’s unclear whether the resulting bill could pass both chambers – or be signed by President Trump.

What are the key issues at stake?

For years, opponents of the 2015 net neutrality rules – including now-FCC Chairman Ajit Pai – have argued they impose unreasonable burdens on Internet providers. Not only were there costs to complying with the regulations, critics say, but the way they were written left the door open to direct price regulation of Internet access. The threat of that rate regulation, according to opponents, deterred ISPs from investing in their networks and making them faster or better.

Proponents argue the net neutrality rules were a vital consumer protection – that without them, Internet providers could freely manipulate what Internet users are allowed to see and which sites and services they may access. This could conceivably end up stifling innovation and strangling small start-ups that can’t afford to negotiate deals for special treatment with companies like Comcast or Cox.

Is there room for a compromise?

A number of GOP lawmakers have floated their own net neutrality bills in recent weeks. Legislation is on the table from Reps. Robert Latta, R-Ohio, Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, R-Wash., and Greg Walden, R-Ore. The Democrats’ planned introduction of their own bill on Wednesday shows that there’s bipartisan appetite for a legislative solution, rather than to keep having various FCCs flip back and forth between policies with every change in administration.

But supporters of the FCC rules have slammed the Republican bills as little more than a fig leaf. While the GOP proposals largely give the FCC clear authority to enforce net neutrality’s core principles – that ISPs may not block, slow down or speed up websites and services – they also largely prohibit the FCC from enacting further regulations on the broadband industry. Advocates of the 2015 net neutrality rules say that defeats the point, as Internet providers could seek new ways around the net neutrality rules that the FCC would then be powerless to stop.

Where could this lead?

Despite the apparent standoff between Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill, some have suggested that it doesn’t have to be an either-or proposition – that Congress could outline, in an entirely new chapter of the law, exactly what the FCC’s powers should be for the Internet age.

In principle, this hypothetical new part of the FCC’s charter could address net neutrality and its authority to write future rules for internet providers, while forbidding the FCC from directly regulating the price of Internet service.

Even as this legislative story unfolds, don’t forget that there’s a federal court case pending that could decide whether the FCC’s 2017 vote to repeal the net neutrality rules is upheld.

Categories: Business
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.