Senator Cantwell Introduces Net Neutrality Bill

It's barely been four weeks since the Federal Communications Commission voted to impose neutrality rules on broadband providers and already the agency is facing two lawsuits by disgruntled telecoms.

What's more, lawmakers are attempting to take the matter into their own hands by passing neutrality legislation. But the proposals that have been introduced to date reflect such a deep divide neutrality advocates and opponents that it doesn't seem likely that the Republican House and Democratic Senate will be able to agree on a bill.

The latest proposed bill, introduced today by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), would bar broadband providers from blocking applications or sites and also would explicitly ban paid prioritization deals, which involve content providers that pay extra for fast-lane treatment.

Cantwell's "Internet Freedom, Broadband Promotion, and Consumer Protection Act of 2011" also includes provisions that go far beyond simple neutrality rules. The bill would require all broadband providers to offer service to consumers "upon reasonable request," would ban providers from insisting that consumers purchase other services bundled with broadband and also would require broadband providers to charge reasonable fees. Neutrality advocates including Free Press and Public Knowledge have already gone on record as supporting the bill.

Meanwhile, however, House Republicans are making it a priority to nix neutrality regulations. An Energy and Commerce Committee memo circulated last week lists undoing the FCC's neutrality rules among the priorities for the year. The committee, now led by Fred Upton (R-Mich.), also says it intends to hold hearings "on the harm regulation of the Internet will cause to investment, innovation and jobs, as well as the FCC's abuse of authority and process."

Additionally, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) earlier this month introduced a bill that would strip the FCC of authority to regulate the Internet. Blackburn's proposed "Internet Freedom Act" would ban the FCC from issuing "any regulations regarding the Internet or IP-enabled services."

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