Commentary

Report: GOP Readying Net Neutrality Compromise

Republican lawmakers reportedly are readying a bill that would require broadband providers to follow some net neutrality principles, but would stop short of classifying them as utilities.

The proposal, which reportedly is backed by the cable and telecom industry, would establish “Title X” -- a new broadband-focused section of the Telecommunications Law. That new law would authorize the Federal Communications Commission to prohibit broadband providers from blocking or degrading traffic and from charging companies for faster delivery of their material, according to The Washington Post, which first reported on the potential new measure.

A law that empowered the FCC to ban paid fast lanes would appear to satisfy some of the major goals of net neutrality advocates. But many consumer advocates say the best way to protect net neutrality principles is by reclassifying broadband as a utility service, in which case providers would be subject to the same common-carrier requirements as telephone companies.

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Internet service providers have vowed to fight any attempt at reclassifying them as utilities, arguing that regulations created for telephone companies don't make sense for more modern technology. But net neutrality advocates say the FCC can pick and choose which utility-style regulations to apply to Internet service providers.

Of course, at this point it's not clear that the potential industry-backed measure will be introduced, much less passed and signed.

In the meantime, the FCC continues to face pressure from proponents of neutrality rules as well as critics.

Yesterday, 34 Democratic lawmakers pressed FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to enact new broadband regulations as soon as possible.

“We believe the way to achieve a free and open Internet is to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act, with appropriate forbearance,” they write. “We urge you to act without delay to finalize rules that keep the Internet free and open for business.”

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