Sen. Ed Markey (D-VA) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) have introduced legislation that would bring back the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) net neutrality rules. That follows a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to overturn rules the FCC had in place to force companies to treat all internet traffic equally. As of yet, the FCC hasn't acted on one of the options available to it—reclassifying internet service providers as essentially utilities, allowing the agency to oversee the industry as it does other telecommunications. In the absence of this action, Markey and Waxman are keeping up the pressure to keep the internet open.
“The Internet is an engine of economic growth because it has always been an open platform for competition and innovation,” said Waxman, the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, in a statement.The legislation is intended in part to keep some pressure on FCC chair Tom Wheeler to do the right thing, in imposing non-discrimination rules, preventing services providers from speeding up or slowing down some network traffic depending on its content.
“Our bill very simply ensures that consumers can continue to access the content and applications of their choosing online."
The Open Internet Preservation Act would restore the FCC regulations struck down by a federal appeals court earlier this month until the commission decided to take new actions on the issue.
Newly appointed FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has sent mixed messages on non-discrimination, but the new House bill supports the policy unequivocally. One senior hill staffer told The Verge that measure would "box Wheeler in on setting up a new system," effectively forcing the chairman to support non-discrimination or openly oppose his own party's house leadership.The FCC still needs to act to keep the internet open. That's the point this legislation, which would protect internet users in the meantime, is making. That's also the point President Obama made in a video chat this week, when he said, "I have been a strong supporter of Net Neutrality. The new commissioner of the FCC, Tom Wheeler, whom I appointed, I know is a strong supporter of Net Neutrality." He added that there was "one good piece of news coming out of this court opinion" which is that the court "did confirm that the FCC can regulate this space. They have authority." He added, "[i]f the old systems and rulings that they had in place were not effective in preserving Net Neutrality, do they have other tools that would stand up to court scrutiny that accomplishes the same goals."