Democrats tackle net neutrality with 'Save the Internet Act'

Senate and House Democrats on Wednesday put forth a two-page bill that proposes to reinstate the net neutrality rules that were repealed two years ago.

The "Save the Internet Act" seeks to enact the three pillars of net neutrality—no blocking, no throttling and no paid prioritization by large internet service providers (ISPs).  It also seeks to empower the Federal Communications Commission to "prohibit unjust, unreasonable and discriminatory practices," according to a press release.

Net neutrality, a.k.a. the Open Internet Order, was put in place in 2015 by the FCC as a means to require ISPs to treat all internet traffic equally across their networks. It also reinstated broadband providers under a Title II classification, which allowed them prioritize some types of internet traffic and set pricing.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who was appointed by the Trump administration, spearheaded the effort in December 2017 to repeal the net neutrality rules, which the FCC commissioners approved by a 3-2 vote. Those votes were along party lines.

Consumer groups and large companies, such as Facebook and Amazon, have opposed the overturning of net neutrality. Several states, including California, have been developing their own rules for large ISPs. Attorney generals in 22 states and several tech firms have filed a suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.The FCC commissioners that voted in favor of removing net neutrality characterized the rules as heavy handed while also leading to fewer investments.

The Save the Internet Act bill is headed for markup next week, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a press conference Wednesday morning that the bill would come to the floor in the coming weeks.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he expected the bill to have bipartisan support in both the Senate and the House, and that it would pass in both, according to a story by CNBC.

Assuming it passes the Democrat-led House and Republican-controlled Senate, the bill would need to be signed by President Trump in order to change the FCC ruling. Since the initial repeal was done during Trump's administration, an approval of the new bill during the same administration doesn’t seem likely.

“The free and open Internet is a pillar of our democracy,” said Pelosi in a prepared statement. “It is an honor to join Democrats from both sides of the Capitol to introduce this strong legislation, which honors the will of the millions of Americans speaking out to demand an end to the Trump assault on net neutrality.  Democrats are proudly taking bold action to restore net neutrality protections: lowering costs and increasing choice for consumers, giving entrepreneurs a level playing field on which to compete, helping bring broadband to every corner of the country, and ensuring that American innovation and entrepreneurialism can continue to be the envy of the world.”

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In early January, before adjourning for new members and an ensuing Democrat majority, the GOP-led U.S. House of Representatives voted against reinstating the net neutrality rules that were put in place in 2015 under the auspices of then-FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

The Congressional Review Act, which would have nullified the new FCC rules that got rid of net neutrality, passed the Senate in May with support from three Republicans.