Democrats Release Plan to Restore Net Neutrality Rule

Demonstrators rally in support of net neutrality outside a Verizon store in New York on Dec. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

WASHINGTON (CN) – Democrats in the House and Senate on Wednesday unveiled a new bill that would write into law an Obama-era net neutrality rule the Federal Communications Commission repealed in late 2017.

The bill Democrats released publicly on Wednesday restores and codifies an order the FCC adopted in February 2015 that barred internet service providers from blocking, throttling or prioritizing certain content over others. The order also reclassified internet service providers, subjecting them to stricter regulatory treatment from the federal government.

The proposed legislation at the same time rolls back the 2017 FCC decision that repealed the Obama-era net neutrality rule and prohibits the FCC from issuing a similar repeal in the future unless Congress authorizes it.   

Representative Mike Doyle, D-Penn., is sponsoring the bill introduced in the House Wednesday and Senator Ed Markey, D-Mass., is introducing a companion bill in the Senate.  

“Net neutrality is one of the most important digital rights issues we face today and the internet is among the most influential and important inventions ever created,” Doyle said Wednesday.

The FCC voted in December 2017 to repeal the Obama-era rule, which providers called overly burdensome and restrictive. The move drew an immediate court challenge and the D.C. Circuit heard lengthy arguments in the case at the beginning of February.

The D.C. Circuit could rule in the case by the summer, but Congress has a quicker timeline in mind. Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the new net neutrality bill will come to the House floor “in a matter of weeks.”

“A free and open internet is a pillar,” Pelosi said Wednesday. “A pillar of so many things – our democracy, of economic possibility, entrepreneurship and the rest, creating opportunities and empowering communities.”

Doyle said the bill will come up next week for a hearing in the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, which he chairs.

The bill announced Wednesday is similar to a measure that passed the Senate last year before dying in the Republican-controlled House. While Democrats now control the House, the measure’s future in the Senate is less than clear given an expanded Republican majority in the chamber.

But Democrats on Wednesday said they hope to build on the three Republicans who voted with Democrats to restore the net neutrality rules last year.

“Whether it is in the halls of Congress or in the courts, we will not stop fighting until net neutrality is fully restored,” Markey said Wednesday.

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