Democrats Seek to Codify Net Neutrality as Fifth FCC Commissioner Suspends: Broadband Breakfast

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 1, 2022 — Democratic senators on Thursday introduced a bill that would enshrine in law the concept of net neutrality, which would prevent internet service providers from tinkering with internet traffic, in a move ahead of the midterm elections. -mandate that could change if the Federal Communications Commission asks its fifth Democratic commissioner to take unilateral action on the issue.

The Net Neutrality and Broadband Justice Act would give the FCC regulatory authority over broadband by classifying such services under Title II as defined in the Communications Act of 1934. Under Title II, the FCC would have greater regulatory power to compel providers to adhere to the principle of common transport, meaning that traffic on their networks will not be throttled, expedited, or privileged. Under the current slight touch of Title I – which was reinstituted by the 2017 commission under the chairmanship Ajit Pai – the FCC does not have this authority, and the commission has already been blocked by the courts from bringing net neutrality under Title I.

“My legislation would reverse the damaging approach taken by the Trump FCC, which has left broadband access unregulated and consumers unprotected. This would give the FCC the tools it needs to protect the free and open internet. , creating a fair broadband future for everyone in our country,” said Senator Edward MarkeyD-Mass., said during a virtual press conference hosted by Public Knowledge on Thursday.

Markey noted that the majority of Americans and Republicans favor restoring net neutrality rules in the country.

Public Knowledge, an open Internet advocacy group, was co-founded by Gigi Sohnappointed by the president Joe Biden to be the fifth commissioner of the FCC. The confirmation vote in the Senate has not yet taken place, as some Republicans have complained about Sohn’s ability to be impartial on the committee.

“We have gone 544 days in the Biden administration without a fully functioning agency. It is time for Senate leaders to end this senseless delay and bring the agency back to full capacity,” said Matt woodvice president of policy and general counsel for Free Press Action, in a press release welcoming the bill.

Reintroduction of bill comes as Sohn’s FCC nomination appears to be faltering

Sohn, who would be the party’s tiebreaker on the commission, would have bolstered the FCC’s chance to push for a reclassification of broadband services under Title II. But the longer a vote doesn’t take place, the less optimistic some say they are about holding a vote before a midterm election in November that could tip the Senate into the red.

“Confirmation is still possible, but with the extended August recess and midterm elections looming, there aren’t many legislative days to get the job done,” the former president said. FCC. Richard Wiley at an event late last month.

Republican Commissioner Nathan Simington has previously said he would welcome congressional action on net neutrality — instead of an FCC vote on it.

“I’ve already said that the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality rules are the right approach,” the FCC commissioner said. Geoffrey Stark in a Press release. “This approach is backed by a voluminous record and overwhelming public support, and it has been tested in court. The Net Neutrality and Broadband Justice Act would just codify that,”

Bill comes after FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has repeatedly stated that she believes net neutrality should be the guiding principle of the internet economy. Rosenworcel was defiant in her support for the principle in response to a letter from Republican representatives who urged her not to change her mind about it.

She added in a statement after the bill’s introduction that while the FCC has the authority it needs to implement net neutrality, “legislation that helps ensure it’s the law of the country is welcome”.

“For anyone who wants more innovation, more voice, and less corporate control on the internet, net neutrality is a no-brainer,” said Ron Wyden, D-OR, who co-introduced the bill. In 2018, Verizon admitted to strangulation the wireless speeds used by California firefighters working on a large fire – one of the examples used to illustrate the imposition of such rules.

As such, California went its own way instead of Washington’s inaction. The state won a court battle this year against the broadband industry that challenged its own net neutrality law. AT&T was required by law to offer free sponsored apps to residents.

Criticisms of the broadband industry’s net neutrality measure

But broadband providers and the commission that overturned net neutrality rules don’t see it that way. They claim that the regulations imposed by a net neutrality framework hinder innovation and market competition, including the ability to provide free access to certain apps.

Michael PowellCEO of the NCTA trade association, said this bill will have a negative effect on reducing the digital divide.

“In the wake of the once-in-a-lifetime infrastructure bill, we must collectively focus on bridging the digital divide and not take a ride on the net neutrality carousel for the umpteenth time for no apparent reason” , did he declare.

“Hitting an outdated and cumbersome regulatory regime on broadband networks will surely hurt the mission to deploy next-generation internet technology across America and connect everyone,” Powell said.

The Association of Wireless Internet Service Providers also spoke out against the bill, saying strict regulation would hamper their ability to serve underserved areas of the country. “The Title II requirements of the bill would create real threats to their continued viability,” the statement said.

“Net neutrality may be mixed, but regulating common carriers would hamper competition, private investment and innovation, and further complicate the complex task of eradicating the digital divide,” he said. added.

Another trade group, USTelecom, said it feared such regulation would hamper investment in broadband networks. “There is bipartisan support for net neutrality, but legislative proposals that would jeopardize any of that progress are not the right answer,” the CEO said. Jonathan Spaler in one version. “Let’s maintain our focus on moving consumers’ Internet experiences forward, not backwards.”

The nonprofit research institution, the Free State Foundation, added that this type of bill will impose harsh regulations that will hurt consumers.

“[T]There is no current evidence, and there hasn’t been in years, that ISPs have engaged in deliberate discriminatory conduct,” the FSF said in a press release. “Virtually all ISP terms of service contain legally enforceable commitments not to block or throttle subscribers’ access to lawful content.

“To the extent that a few old incidents are cited that may violate strict anti-discrimination prohibitions, they have been isolated and promptly remedied,” the FSF added. “That’s why net neutrality advocates must speculate on what ‘could’, ‘could’ or ‘may’ happen in the absence of new regulation, rather than identifying any existing problems. justifying costly new regulatory mandates.

With reporting by Riley Haight.

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