A Republican lawmaker who recently introduced a bill that restores some -- but not all -- of the net neutrality rules is defending her proposal.
The "Open Internet Preservation Act," introduced last week by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), would prohibit broadband providers from blocking or throttling, but would also allow providers to charge higher fees for faster delivery of content.
The 2015 net neutrality rules prohibited service providers from blocking, throttling or creating paid fast lanes. The Federal Communications Commission voted two weeks ago to repeal those rules.
Net neutrality proponents, including lawmakers like Sen. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) and advocacy groups like Free Press, have criticized Blackburn's bill for failing to ban paid fast lanes. Free Press Action Fund President and CEO Craig Aaron stated last week that Blackburn's proposal measure "opens the door to rampant abuse through paid-prioritization schemes that would split the internet into fast lanes for the richest companies and slow lanes for everyone else."
Blackburn counters that she had good reasons to omit a prohibition on paid prioritization from her proposal.
"As we discuss the open internet, we're hearing people talk about prioritization," the lawmaker says in a video she posted to Twitter. "This is something you're not going to see in the open internet bill, because we need to leave that part for discussion."
She adds: "Right now, there are components of the online ecosystem that do have prioritization, just as there is in regular life. TSA precheck, the HOV line, overnight mail, you name it, Amazon Prime."
But net neutrality advocates say that rules against paid prioritization are necessary to preserve openness online. FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who voted to preserve the 2015 rules, warned of a host of scenarios that could occur without the ban on paid fast lanes.
"Maybe several providers will quietly roll out paid prioritization packages that enable deep-pocketed players to cut the queue," she said in her dissenting statement. "Maybe a vertically-integrated broadband provider decides that it will favor its own apps and services. Or some high-value internet-of-things traffic will be subject to an additional fee."