Republican bill: Net neutrality protections without reclassifying broadband

Thune and Upton plan to introduce legislation that they say will provide basic net neutrality protections

Top Republicans in Congress plan to introduce legislation that they say will ensure net neutrality protections for Internet users and will spur U.S. economic growth.

The proposal would create "unambiguous" rules prohibiting broadband providers from selectively blocking or throttling Web traffic, while avoiding a reclassification of broadband as a regulated public utility, said a Wednesday blog post at Reuters.com by Senator John Thune, a South Dakota Republican, and Representative Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican.

The bill would not allow broadband provides to "charge a premium to prioritize content delivery," but it would create new rules without relying on reclassification of broadband under Title II of the Telecommunications Act.

Reclassification, under consideration by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, would be an "ill-fitting tool," wrote Thune, chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and Upton, chairman of the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee.

The Title II rules were "conceived in the Franklin D. Roosevelt era for public utilities," they added. "Policymakers, however, need updated tools written for the Internet age."

Several groups calling for strong net neutrality rules have asked the FCC to reclassify broadband as a public utility. Late last year, President Barack Obama also called for reclassification of broadband.

Suggesting the Telecom Act is "stuck in the 1930s is ridiculous," said Matt Wood, policy director of Free Press, a digital rights group calling for reclassification. "It's an insult to the bipartisan Congress that updated and future-proofed Title II" when it passed the Telecom Act in 1996.

Preventing unreasonable discrimination against Internet users is not outdated, Wood said by email. "If [the Republicans have] suddenly seen the light and realize that Internet users, businesses, and innovators need these protections, that's a big step forward for lawmakers who've been denying these truths for so long. But these principles are the same ones that Congress has already enshrined in Title II, and that the FCC still has available to it at the core of that law."

The FCC is scheduled to vote on new net neutrality rules in late February. It's unlikely that Congress could pass new legislation before then, but a later law could preempt FCC action. Republicans hold the majority in both the House and the Senate, but several lawmakers in the party have objected in the past to any new net neutrality rules.

Even as Thune and Upton's blog post was published, another Republican leader questioned whether new net neutrality rules are needed. Instead of new regulations, the U.S. government should look to antitrust law to enforce uncompetitive practices by broadband providers, said Representative Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Some communications law experts believe "that the regulatory approach leaves consumers with fewer choices and higher prices, the antithesis of net neutrality," Goodlatte said during a Wednesday speech on his committee's legislative priorities. "The Internet doesn't need an inflexible one-size-fits-all government mandate to ensure net neutrality."

Thune and Upton plan to launch a public discussion of their working proposal this week, they wrote. Passing the net neutrality rules are an "early priority" for the new session of Congress, they said.

"Our nation's current technology and telecommunications laws were meant for an era of rotary telephones, brick-sized cellular phones and expensive long-distance service," they wrote. "By acting legislatively, we can set aside the baggage and limits of an antiquated legal framework and work with the Federal Communications Commission to ensure the Internet remains the beacon of freedom and connectivity that defines America in the 21st century."

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Fred Uptonfree presstelecommunicationJohn ThuneU.S. CongresslegislationgovernmentBarack ObamainternetInternet service providersMatt WoodBob GoodlattebroadbandU.S. Federal Communications Commission

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?