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A bicameral bill from congressional Democrats that would force the Federal Communications Commission to ban "paid prioritization" was released Tuesday. The FCC is currently considering a proposal that would allow internet service providers to charge for faster delivery, an idea that guts the idea of net neutrality—that every bit of content on the internet has the same priority as every other bit of content. The legislation would block this FCC proposal/
The proposal, put forward by Senate Judiciary Committee chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), requires the FCC to use whatever authority it sees fit to make sure that Internet providers don't speed up certain types of content (like Netflix videos) at the expense of others (like e-mail). It wouldn't give the commission new powers, but the bill—known as the Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act—would give the FCC crucial political cover to prohibit what consumer advocates say would harm startup companies and Internet services by requiring them to pay extra fees to ISPs.
Saying that "Americans are speaking loud and clear," Leahy intends to preserve "an Internet that is a platform for free expression and innovation, where the best ideas and services can reach consumers based on merit rather than based on a financial relationship with a broadband provider." He is having field hearings on net neutrality in Vermont this summer.
This legislation isn't going to move forward any time soon, not with a Republican House that doesn't move anything, and that is hostile to any kind of FCC regulation. But it's a key political statement to the FCC, and is intended to send a message about how important net neutrality is, according to a Democratic aide:
"The point is: Ban paid prioritization. Because that'll fundamentally change how the Internet works."
In other words, the proposal the FCC is considering right now will change the internet as we know it. That's something congressional Democrats want to stop.