Democrats in the House and Senate on Wednesday introduced a bill to restore the Obama-era open Internet rules.
The three-page “Save the Internet Act” would reinstate a sweeping broadband order passed in 2015 by the Federal Communications Commission. That order banned providers from blocking or throttling traffic and from charging higher fees for prioritized delivery. It also reclassified broadband as a “telecommunications” service, bringing it under Title II of the Communications Act -- a move that empowered the FCC to impose privacy rules on broadband carriers.
The new proposal, introduced by Senator Ed Markey (Massachusetts), is currently backed by 46 Senate Democrats. Rep. Mike Doyle (Pennsylvania) is sponsoring a companion bill in the House. A similar proposal introduced last year ultimately drew the support of 52 Senators, but stalled in the House.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who shepherded the 2017 repeal, quickly denounced the proposed law.
“The FCC’s return in 2017 to the bipartisan, light-touch approach to Internet regulation has been a success,” Pai stated.
He added that the deregulatory move “unleashed private investment, resulting in more fiber being deployed in 2018 than any year before and download speeds increasing by an astounding 36%.”
Pai has frequently claimed that the net neutrality rules depressed investment -- and that revoking the rules had the opposite effect. But others have questioned Pai's conclusions.
The publication Ars Technica reported recently that capital expenditures at Comcast's cable division dropped from $7.95 billion in 2017 to $7.72 billion last year. And the publication Motherboard reported that some speed boosts and other network improvements were due to upgrades that began years ago, or were tied to the conditions of AT&T's merger with DirecTV.
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who supported the Obama-era rules, cheered news of the new proposed bill. “The @FCC was on the wrong side of the law, history & the American public when it rolled back #NetNeutrality,” she tweeted Wednesday. “I’ll keep raising a ruckus to support net neutrality & I’m glad so many others are too.”
Advocacy group Public Knowledge, which also supports the proposal, added that broadband carriers “have slowly and carefully moved to erode the concepts of net neutrality” since the rules were repealed.
Earlier this year, the organization collected some examples of ways in which broadband providers may have violated net neutrality principles. Among others, major wireless carriers slowed down mobile video traffic from YouTube, Netflix and other providers, according to researchers at Northeastern University, University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Stony Brook University.