Reps. Henry A. Waxman and Anna Eshoo have introduced new net neutrality legislation that restores the Federal Communication Commission's open internet rules that were struck down last month in a different ruling by D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
If passed, the Open Internet Preservation Act would continue to prevent broadband providers from restricting or privileging online content until the FCC makes a final decision in the Open Internet debate. “The Internet is an engine of economic growth because it has always been an open platform for competition and innovation,” said Rep. Waxman, ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee. “Our bill very simply ensures that consumers can continue to access the content and applications of their choosing online."
Arguing that the benefits of an open internet outweighs the FCC's questionable authority over broadband regulation, which Verizon successfully challenged in January in "Verizon v. FCC", the bill's co-sponsors stress that this new ruling does not dictate new rules for net neutrality, but nonetheless they encourage the FCC to "quickly exercise the authorities the D.C. Circuit recognized to reinstate the Open Internet rules." Adds Waxman, "Our bill makes clear that consumers and innovators will be protected in the interim.”
The issue of net neutrality has been debated since 2010, when the FCC introduced the Open Internet Order preventing ISPs from discriminating against content in pay-for-prioritization deals that would allow a company like Comcast to limit the bandwidth available to its customers while watching a video on YouTube, an example the co-sponsors cite in the summary of the two-page bill. Despite complaints that the order didn't go far enough in preventing mobile service providers from being held accountable by the non-blocking and non-discrimination rules, the ruling was still lauded as a step forward in protecting the freedom of the internet.
“The Internet is an open marketplace where everyone can participate on equal footing,” added Sen. Franken, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, who pressed the FCC for action after the January court decision. “The website of a Minnesota small business should load as quickly as the website of a large corporation.”
No word yet on when the FCC will give a final ruling on the Open Internet Order, but the commission's new chairman Tom Wheeler has stated his support for net neutrality.