Bill Could Make Net Neutrality Law Under New Administration

Senator Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) plans to introduce a bill in the next few weeks that would make net neutrality a law. “The coronavirus pandemic has proven that broadband is as essential as electricity and other utilities,” he said. “We need to restore net neutrality protections to ensure that our Internet remains open and free and that consumers can continue to benefit from this critical infrastructure.” Many Republicans still oppose net neutrality, and its existence has largely been subject to who chairs the FCC.

The Verge reports that three Republican senators — John Kennedy (R-Louisiana), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) — “voted for a measure to bring back [net neutrality] rules … [so] there could be some bipartisan support for a new bill in the Senate as well.” They voted for the Congressional Review Act to overturn FCC chair Ajit Pai’s rollback of net neutrality.

“But the window for another CRA vote has long since passed, making it more difficult for Democrats to find the votes necessary to approve net neutrality legislation in the Senate,” says The Verge. Some Senate Democrats might also vote against such a bill.

Title II is an FCC classification that gives it “more authority to regulate broadband,” and any bill that doesn’t place net neutrality under it will be “a nonstarter for many Democrats.” “It’s not just about net neutrality that’s about closing the digital divide that it’s about making sure that broadband is affordable and accessible to everyone,” said Public Knowledge president and CEO Chris Lewis. “Right now the FCC can’t do any of that.”

Markey noted that, “once we have three Democrats in place at the Federal Communications Commission, I will strongly urge it to reverse the Trump FCC’s wrongheaded decision and restore net neutrality and the FCC’s authority over broadband.”

President Biden appointed Democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel as interim chair “but the FCC is currently gridlocked with two Democrats and two Republicans, making it impossible for it to move forward on open Internet rules.”

Fight for the Future deputy director Evan Greer noted that, “the first battle is ensuring that whoever the Biden administration nominates for that fifth position that the FCC is someone who’s … going to stand up and make sure that the FCC is an agency that is protecting people’s basic right to connect to the Internet safely affordably.”

The New York Times reports that both former President Trump and President Biden have voiced the opinion that the Communications Decency Act’s Section 230, which holds Internet companies not liable for what their users post, should be revoked. But lawmakers are coming around to a different solution: “eliminating protections for specific kinds of content rather than making wholesale changes to the law or eliminating it entirely.”

Among the proposals are one that “would strip the protections from content the companies are paid to distribute, like ads,” and another that “would allow people to sue when a platform amplified content linked to terrorism,” and still another that “would exempt content from the law only when a platform failed to follow a court’s order to take it down.”

Related:
U.S. Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Make High-Speed Internet Available to All, Engadget, 3/11/21