US Senators Plan Bill To Restore Net Neutrality

Two democratic Senators are to reopen a long-running technology battle with the US Republican party.

CNN reported that Senators Ed Markey and Ron Wyden in the coming weeks will introduce a bill aiming to restore net neutrality regulations for broadband providers in America.

It should be remembered that the US communications regulator (the FCC) under former President Barack Obama (a democrat), had already adopted net neutrality rules back in 2015.

Democratic v Republican

Those laws were designed to stop service providers from blocking, slowing access to or charging more for certain content.

Prior to 2015 the FCC had enforced network neutrality on a case-by-case basis through four principles the agency approved in 2005.

But Republican Donald Trump was elected President in 2016, and with his appointment of former FCC chairman Ajit Pai, the Republican-dominated FCC in 2017 controversially voted to “roll back” Obama-era net neutrality rules for the United States.

The FCC’s decision in 2017 had been fiercely opposed by the US Senate, as well as technology firms and small businesses, and many US states at the time.

However the roll back was supported by some telecom providers.

So much so that California decided to press ahead and implement its own net neutrality law, much to the chagrin of the FCC.

The Californian net neutrality rule (SB 822) was designed to combat the FCC overturning those rules that prevented internet service providers from selectively blocking, slowing or speeding up apps and websites.

The Trump administration argued that the FCC, not the US states, held exclusive authority to set net neutrality rules, and in October 2018, the US Justice Department filed an injunction to stop Californian implementing its own net neutrality law.

The Biden administration however did not continue the DoJ litigation against California.

FCC control

It should also be noted that the FCC currently has a 2-2 split of Republican and Democratic commissioners.

This means the FCC is currently sitting at a 2-2 partisan deadlock on the net neutrality matter.

The Biden administration faced a tough battle with Republicans to get Jessica Rosenworcel, a longtime Democratic commissioner at the FCC, confirmed as the FCC chair.

The Biden administration is also under pressure to appoint a fifth commissioner to “ensure a fully functional Federal Communications Commission” (the FCC normally has five commissioners).

The US Senate has yet to confirm Gigi Sohn, Biden’s nominee to fill the fifth and final seat on the commission, who could give Rosenworcel enough votes to proceed with restoring net neutrality laws in the US.

Draft bill

Meanwhile in February 2021 California won a legal victory when the US District Court for the Eastern District of California denied a preliminary injunction from telecom industry groups seeking to block California’s net neutrality legislation.

Then in April 2022 the US Appeals said it will not reconsider its decision to uphold California’s net neutrality law.

This means the telecom groups can only appeal the ruling to the US Supreme Court.

Now CNN reported that the draft bill from Senators Ed Markey and Ron Wyden would explicitly classify high-speed internet as a telecommunications service, according to two people familiar with the matter, enshrining into law the FCC’s authority to regulate internet service providers (ISPs) with tough rules similar to the ones it imposes on legacy telephone providers.

The Senate legislation will likely be introduced before Congress breaks for summer recess, while a similar bill in the House is being developed by Republican Doris Matsui, the people reportedly said.

The coming legislative push was first reported by The Washington Post.

Under clarified authority from the US Congress, the FCC would be officially empowered to prohibit ISPs from selectively blocking, slowing or speeding up apps and websites.

The same authority would also enable other types of regulations, such as privacy rules limiting ISPs’ use of customer service data for advertising or other ancillary purposes.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

Recent Posts

Productivity Increases in Sectors Exposed To AI, PwC Finds

Sectors more exposed to AI are experiencing almost fivefold greater labour productivity growth, new report…

3 hours ago

BT Extends Deadline For PSTN Switch To Digital Landlines

Carrier 'refines' its digital switchover programme, and extends deadline for UK move from old analogue…

4 hours ago

Apple Slashes iPhone Prices In China

Amid intense competition from Huawei and others, Apple has again slashed the price of its…

21 hours ago

Bitcoin ‘Creator’ Craig Wright Repeatedly Lied, Rules UK Judge

Damning ruling by British judge, after he rules that self-proclaimed bitcoin inventor lied 'repeatedly' to…

22 hours ago

Julian Assange Granted Right To Challenge US Extradiction Order

High Court rules Wikileaks founder Julian Assange can appeal against extradition to the US, despite…

23 hours ago

Tesla Layoffs Continue With Another 600 Jobs In California

Regulatory filing last week shows Elon Musk's Tesla is cutting another 600 jobs in California,…

1 day ago