House Democrats Attempting to Save Net Neutrality
Recently, the federal appeals court for the D.C. Circuit vacated the Federal Communication Commission (FCC)’s net neutrality rules, claiming that the FCC had failed to justify these regulations under existing law. However, noting that the appeals court ruling clearly stated that the FCC had the power to regulate broadband access, two Representatives – California Democrats Henry Waxman and Anna Eshoo – are leading a Congressional push to get temporary net neutrality rules in place until the FCC can properly tailor those regulations in a manner that will survive judicial review.
At its core, the principle of ‘net-neutrality’ is that internet service providers must enable users to access all content and/or applications regardless of their source. An internet without net-neutrality rules would allow service providers to block particular products or websites, or promote certain products while downplaying others. Though the abandonment of net-neutrality rules would create exclusive endorsement and other business opportunities for advertisers, etc., the potential for abuse is obvious. More importantly, consumers would have little recourse against internet carriers other than to switch service providers, which is not always feasible.
The temporary measure has been named the “Open Internet Preservation Act.” Effectively, it would re-instate the FCC’s previous anti-blocking and anti-discrimination rules until the commission can re-visit the issue and release new, proper regulations. Doris Matsui, another California Democrat in favor of the bill, commented “I am pleased to be an original cosponsor of legislation preserving the FCC’s ability to enforce net neutrality rules that keep the internet open from gatekeeper interference . . . . While the D.C. Circuit affirmed the FCC’s authority to oversee broadband services, this legislation is necessary to restore anti-blocking and non-discrimination rules in the interim. These basic rules of the road are necessary to protect both consumers and innovators.”
One Representative, House Communications Subcommittee Chair Greg Walden, expressed a certain hesitance with respect to quickly re-installing net neutrality rules and re-instating the FCC to full watchdog status. He noted that he was “vigorously opposed to any attempt to install the FCC as the traffic cop of the Internet. Innovation, job creation, and consumer choice have all flourished without so-called Net Neutrality rules, and a departure from that framework would certainly put American leadership in communications and technology in jeopardy.”