Just as the FCC puts the final touches on its new net neutrality rules that it plans to issue in February, a group of Republicans have put together their own bill that claims to ensure the openness of the Internet while not permitting the agency to reclassify broadband as a utility under Title II of the Communications Act.
What's likely driven the Republicans to act was President Barack Obama's plea to the FCC to implement Title II on broadband providers, a move that's been largely criticized by traditional telcos like Verizon and AT&T as unnecessary.
During the recent Consumer Electronics Show, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler told attendees that that he is leaning toward proposing net neutrality rules where broadband providers will be reclassified as utilities under Title II of the Communications Act.
"Times have changed," Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the chairman of the House telecom subcommittee, said when asked about the evolving GOP position on net neutrality, reported Politico. "The administration has latched onto this [utility-style regulation], and the FCC's independence is nominal at best."
Walden said that the Republicans' proposed bill, which "is ready" and will be made public over the next few days, "gives the protections that the president and FCC say they want, and does it in a legally sustainable way."
News of the Republicans' alternative net neutrality legislation plans initially emerged in December.
At that time, a group of Republicans reportedly proposed another method for the FCC to regulate broadband providers by developing what is called "Title X," a special element of the Communications Act. While Title X would give the FCC the authority to prevent service providers from blocking or slowing down consumer traffic to a specific website like Netflix or carving out special paid prioritization deals, the FCC would have to agree to not reclassify service providers under the Title II element of the Communications Act.
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