Days After FCC Repeal, New Net Neutrality Bill Draws Criticism

A new bill introduced in the wake of the FCC’s repeal of open-internet rules doesn’t go far enough for the industry and advocacy groups that opposed the FCC’s actions.

With the door apparently closed on net neutrality at the Federal Communications Commission, one potential way to bring it back could come from Congress—but not everyone’s a fan.

This week, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the chair of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, introduced a bill she says reintroduces open-internet rules. But the same groups that criticized last week’s repeal aren’t warming up to Blackburn’s effort.

The bill, per Ars Technica, would amend the Communications Act to prevent the blocking of content or the degrading of internet connections, but unlike the prior FCC rules, the net neutrality measures being recommended by Blackburn would not block attempts to prioritize certain types of content. The bill, additionally, would define internet access as an information service, preventing the Federal Communications Commission from taking action on many internet issues, and would also limit recourse for states.

For many tech advocates, Blackburn’s approach wasn’t enough. While Internet Association President and CEO Michael Beckerman quickly commended the congresswoman for “moving this conversation forward,” he said there was little for the group to like in the current measure.

“The proposal circulated today does not meet the criteria for basic net neutrality protections—including bright-line rules and a ban on paid prioritization—and will not provide consumers the protections they need to have guaranteed access to the entire internet,” Beckerman said in a Tuesday statement. “Net neutrality in name only is not enough to protect our economy or the millions of Americans that want and rely on these rules.”

Other commenters, including those in Congress and the FCC, were less kind about the bill, with some suggesting that it came at a poor time. “We are at the point of litigation, not legislation,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) said, according to Bloomberg.

She did find support for her efforts from the telecom space, however, with the Telecommunications Industry Association’s Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Cinnamon Rogers claiming that the legislation would “affirm and strengthen the FCC’s recent net neutrality decision.”

“In addition to enshrining into law critical principles of internet openness that consumers demand and that TIA has long supported, it offers a potential end to the political ping-pong of the past decade on this issue,” Rogers said in a release.

Blackburn has been in a similar position with proposed legislation related to the FCC this year. In May, after Congress rolled back online privacy measures targeted at internet service providers, she introduced the “Browser Act,” which would have extended those privacy measures to major websites and preempted state action on the issue. That measure met similar criticism from technology groups.

Public Knowledge, another net neutrality advocate, saw room for Congress to play a role in the process of reviving net neutrality—but not the one offered by Blackburn’s bill.

“Instead [of] adopting a weak substitute for net neutrality, Congress should use the Congressional Review Act to reverse the FCC decision and restore the Open Internet Order,” the advocacy group explained.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) recently introduced new open-internet legislation. (Brookings Institution/Flickr)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!