Potential for bipartisan net neutrality bill emerges in U.S. Congress

“Both political parties have a major reason to seek a permanent legislative solution after the Federal Communications Commission last month enacted tough new regulations for online traffic,” Jim Puzzanghera reports for The Los Angeles Times.

“Leading Republicans want to limit the broad authority the FCC asserted to police broadband after classifying it as a more highly regulated utility-like service under Title 2 of the Communications Act. And to do that, the GOP lawmakers reversed long-standing opposition to the need for net neutrality regulations and have proposed codifying the meat of the FCC’s order: prohibitions on Internet service providers from blocking, slowing or selling priority delivery of content to consumers,” Puzzanghera reports. “Key Democrats said they’re willing to work on a bill that could limit the FCC’s powers because enshrining net neutrality regulations into law would avoid the fear that they could be overturned by federal judges — which happened twice before — or a future Republican-led FCC.”

“‘Democrats would like to lock net neutrality into a litigation-proof statute. And Republicans really want to eliminate Title 2 [authority]. So that’s a good starting point,’ said Paul Gallant, a telecommunications policy analyst with Guggenheim Securities in Washington,” Puzzanghera reports. “The Republican bill is sponsored by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), two veteran lawmakers with the clout to get legislation approved. It tries to appease net neutrality supporters by enshrining the FCC’s new prohibitions into law but appeals to the industry by eliminating the Title 2 classification for broadband, which would limit the agency’s ability to make new regulations.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: The fluidity of the marketplace should not be stymied by rigid regulations that can be arbitrarily enforced, might be deemed unlawful, and/or that can change on a dime based on FCC composition. Hopefully a real workable compromise bill can eventually be constructed and a permanent legislative solution enacted that will not threaten the vibrant hotbed for innovation that the Internet has thus far afforded.

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    1. That is what the FCC is trying to do – so I suspect they will actually appreciate a well written well targeted law.

      The chairman wants net neutrality, and tried enforcing that without Title II baggage. The reason that failed was the telecoms challenged the mechanism and it was struck down.

      Then the FCC used Title II but with only a subset of provision enforced. In short, they are enforcing unbiased access, but not limiting how telecoms charge for access. So a lot of Title II overreach complaints are just bullshit because most of Title II is not being applied.

      But if Republicans and Democrats can create a simple net neutrality law, that would be the best of all worlds.

  1. “The fluidity of the marketplace should not be stymied by rigid regulations that can be arbitrarily enforced, might be deemed unlawful, and/or that can change on a dime based on FCC composition. Hopefully a real workable compromise bill can eventually be constructed and a permanent legislative solution enacted that will not threaten the vibrant hotbed for innovation that the Internet has thus far afforded.”

    Passing a law is the EXACT OPPOSITE of fluidity. It can take *years* to get such a law through Congress and get it signed by a President. After all the bribers (err, lobbyists) get their say, the laws will be so complex as to be both worthless and virtually impossible to implement without legal squabbles. It can take *years* to get a standing law modified. Almost all laws are *years* behind (temporally) the current state of information technology.

    Regulations and how a federal agency implements them can change much, more rapidly than any laws and can come closer to keeping up with changes in information technology.

    It’s very, very interesting that MDN’s headlines say “so called net neutrality” when the FCC wants to do something supporting net neutrality, but when certain factions within Congress want to thwart the FCC on net neutrality MDN’s headline leaves out the “so called” part of the term. Most interesting.

    Here’s how net neutrality should work…
    If I download something from Apple, Google, Netflix, Amazon, Microsoft, the U.S. Government or any other information/data provider, *each* and *every* ISP between any of them and my home (or business) needs to treat *each* and *every* bit the same (excluding illegal content, e.g., child pornography and such). No ISP should be able to choose whether one bit gets priority over another. No ISP should be able to force people or organizations to pay more for one bit versus another.

    I could write a simple one page regulation or law that says that. However, all the special interests want to thwart this simple concept to their own benefit.

    1. You are 100% correct. I completely understand your description of net neutrality.

      Net Neutrality is a very simple concept. It is also stated quite well by WikiPedia:

      “… Net neutrality (also network neutrality, Internet neutrality, or net equality) is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication….”

      That’s it. Elegant, easy to understand, almost verbatim as imagined by the creator Tim Wu, and the essence of what has made the internet flourish all these years.

      That’s all we wanted.

      What we got is a 400 page abomination of a government power grab with over 1000 “knobs” with which they can use to tinker with the Internet, in terms of censorship, taxes, and on and on. This is the reason MDN says “so called.” They (the government) are calling it “net neutrality” and indeed there are some aspects of net neutrality included, ( I’m only up to page 140 ) but most of it is pointless gibberish that can be used to do whatever they want, i.e. Obamanet.

      The effect is that every idea, innovation, or whatever that an ISP might come up with, is subject to regulation whether it makes things better for consumers or not.

      In addition it allows the government to effectively seize control of the PROPERTY of the ISPs, namely their multi-billion dollar investments in infrastructure.

      Net Neutrality could have been easily enforced with existing anti-trust law, but this isn’t about net neutrality.

      This is about expanding government control to encompass the Internet under the heading of so called “net neutrality.”

  2. Because all laws are subject to interpretation. For example, does “no fast lanes” include a restriction against “blocking data”. What about “throttling”? It would seem what is desired is that “any data can flow at the maximum speed available without imposed restrictions”, but we can’t get the two parties to agree on something as simple as that! Primarily because those two parties refuse to agree on anything at all (which doesn’t help our country in any way).

    1. “No fast lanes” can also mean that Netflix and others who pay ISPs to allow them to install servers at ISP locations, so that their streams don’t have to traverse the entire greater Internet to get to customers, might be blocked from doing so. Within the standard definition of Net Neutrality, this would not happen.

  3. Given how stuck the current congress is, I think passing legislation would be even less responsive to changing circumstances than the FTC. On the other hand, if the FTC’s direction can be whipped 180-degrees simply with a change in administration, perhaps that’s too responsive and not responsive to the correct pressures.

  4. It depends on how the law is written.

    The FCC doesn’t have the authority to grab what it’s trying to grab. Congress needs to, and I believe it will, assert its authority.

    The notion that the three branches of government are equal is not in the U.S. Constitution.

    The Founding Fathers intended for the legislative branch (Congress) to be dominant, as is evidenced in the Federalist Papers and even in some of the arguments against ratification of the Constitution from those who wanted co-equal branches and complained that the Constitution did not provide for them.

    The Congress can remove officers from the other two branches — president, agency heads, judges in district or supreme courts. Neither of the other two branches can touch a member of the Congress. – Historian Garry Wills

    Assert your authority, Congress!!!

    1. The three branches have very different checks and balances, none is dominant.

      But if one was, it would be the judicial branch at is the final arbitrar of power. Supreme Court judges can strike down any congressional law, limit and compel the Presidency, and they serve for life.

      But a well written net neutrality would be the best solution for everyone.

      Obama and FCC’s initiative is pushing Republicans to finally act in consumers/citizens interest.

      Even the FCC chairman tried to avoid using Title II.

      (I am not a fan of Obama, and prefer clear laws to complex regulation. But sick of right wingers putting spin on everything.)

    2. All three branches are equally accountable to the Constitution, and therefore to the people who made the Constitution. The president, members of Congress, and federal judges all take an oath to the Constitution. In making the laws, Congress must adhere to the Constitution. In executing the laws, the president must abide by the Constitution. In interpreting the laws, judges are bound by the Constitution. All the people’s representatives are accountable to the Constitution.

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