There’s been a lot of talk about net neutrality in recent times and it seems that it’s about to become a hot button topic on Capitol Hill. Amid growing discontent throughout the country congress was finally forced to listen up when millions of Americans created a backlash that was felt across the USA and apparently the political landscape.
That’s right; congress is finally ready to announce its intentions as a bill introduced into The Senate by Senate Judiciary Committee chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Representative Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) has finally put the question to the floor. The Bill would block the proposed “fast lanes” that would have led to a two tiered internet. “Americans are speaking loud and clear,” said Leahy. “They want 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.” Representative Matsui added, “A free and open Internet is essential for consumers. Our country cannot afford pay-for-play schemes that divide our Internet into tiers based on who has the deepest pockets.”
While we’re happy this is finally being put the floor there are many out there who are critical of the bill. One of the main concerns is that while the bill explicitly bars the use of fast lanes it does not give the FCC any additional powers to enforce the regulations. This was one of the main sticking points in the infamous Verizon vs. FCC case where it was decided that the FCC could not force Verizon to adhere to their proposed net neutrality rules, specifically, the creations of fast lanes, or premium services to deliver some content to users faster. The FCC was subsequently forced to pass a watered down version of their proposal which would tacitly allow for the creation of the aforementioned fast lanes.
While the bill seems nice, at face value it is little more than a ceremonial proclamation of opinion from The Democratic Senate as the bill is highly unlikely to pass the Republican held House of Representatives. The GOP tends to be favorable to big telecom and cable companies leading many to speculate that the bill is likely to die on the floor even if it is passed by The Senate.
What many people are hoping for in this case is for the FCC to reclassify the ISPs as a Type II telecommunications service. This would make them subject to much more stringent regulations and would allow for the enforcement of the FCC’s net neutrality rules which were struck down in court several months ago. FCC Chairmen Tom Wheel has been reluctant to reclassify the telecom and cable companies citing his concern for the political maelstrom that is sure to ensue. When pressed on the topic he conceded that he would be open to reclassification as a final alternative.