Democrats in both the House and the Senate announced a new bill on Wednesday aiming to return to Obama-era net neutrality rules, more than a year after Trump-appointed FCC Chairman Ajit Pai spearheaded their repeal.
The “Save the Internet Act,” available to read here, aims to bar internet service providers like Verizon and AT&T from blocking or throttling access to certain content without government recourse. The bill would reinstate rules put in place by the FCC in 2015 under President Obama and later repealed by Pai in late 2017.
“With the Save the Internet Act, Democrats are honoring the will of the people and restoring the protections that do this: Stop unjust discriminatory practices by ISPs that try to throttle the public browsing speed, block your internet access and increase your costs, giving to entrepreneurs and small businesses a level playing field and ensuring American innovation can continue to be the envy of the world,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Wednesday.
Pelosi said the bill will come to the floor in the coming weeks, adding that 86 percent of Americans oppose the “Trump assault on net neutrality,” including 82 percent of Republicans.
Opponents of Pai’s decision have argued that the repeal of net neutrality grants too much power to a select few ISPs and hurts consumers, who could see price hikes; those in favor have said the Federal Trade Commission, which the FCC ceded power to, will be able to tackle companies that act anti-competitively. Pai has also argued the 2015 rules have stymied internet investment.
“The FCC’s return in 2017 to the bipartisan, light-touch approach to Internet regulation has been a success,” Pai’s spokeswoman Tina Pelkey told CNBC on Wednesday. “This time-tested framework has preserved the free and open Internet. It has promoted transparency in order to better inform consumer choice. It has unleashed private investment, resulting in more fiber being deployed in 2018 than any year before and download speeds increasing by an astounding 36 percent.”
The FCC’s 2017 decision, Pelkey continued, has “proven wrong the many hysterical predictions of doom from 2017, most notably the fantasy that market-based regulation would bring about ‘the end of the Internet as we know it.'”
Sen. Chuck Schumer said he expects the bill to pass in both houses of Congress, but whether that’s the case is up for debate. With Republicans in control of the Senate, the bill could be “dead on arrival,” as The Washington Post said on Wednesday. Sen. John Thune (R-SD) has already come out against the Democrats’ plan, although he tweeted he’s “ready to work on a bipartisan legislative solution when they are, too.”
Dems earned three Pinocchios from @washingtonpost for last year’s bogus claim that @FCC’s #NetNeutrality repeal would grind the internet to a halt. How many will they earn today? I'm ready to work on a bipartisan legislative solution when they are, too. https://t.co/CbjGqDenT8
— Senator John Thune (@SenJohnThune) March 6, 2019