Will Net Neutrality Return? Two Senators Have a Plan

Will Net Neutrality Return? Two Senators Have a Plan

The bill also has a long list of Democratic and independent cosponsors and has been endorsed by dozens of organizations.

Net neutrality, the notion that Internet data should be treated equally by service providers, was a big buzzword in the 2010s.

In 2014, President Barack Obama asked the FCC to implement stronger net neutrality rules. Obama asked for a  “basic acknowledgment of the services ISPs provide to American homes and businesses, and the straightforward obligations necessary to ensure the network works for everyone—not just one or two companies.” The rules were instituted more formally the following year.

This action was reversed, in 2017, by the Trump Administration, under the FCC chairmanship of net neutrality foe Ajit Pai.

Now, under the Biden administration, there’s a new push in Congress to codify net neutrality rules. It’s called the Net Neutrality and Broadband Justice Act of 2022, and it’s been introduced by Democratic senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

“The Net Neutrality and Broadband Justice Act reflects the undeniable fact that today, broadband is not a luxury. It is essential. That means the potential harms that internet users face without strong net neutrality protections and without the FCC able to exercise its proper authority are more sweeping than ever,” Senator Markey said in the announcement of the legislation.

The bill also has a long list of Democratic and independent cosponsors and has been endorsed by dozens of organizations.

“My legislation would reverse the damaging approach adopted by the Trump FCC, which left broadband access unregulated and consumers unprotected. It would give the FCC the tools it needs to protect the free and open internet, creating a just broadband future for everyone in our country. I thank my partners for their support for this critical legislation.”

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel shared her own support for the legislation, although she also stated that she believes the FCC has the power to set the rules on its own. However, the commission currently has a 2-2 deadlock.

“The pandemic made clear [that] internet access is no longer a luxury, but a necessity—and that consumers don’t just need broadband, they need to be able to hold their providers to account,” Rosenworcel said of the push. “After all, everyone should be able to go where they want and do what they want online without their broadband provider making choices for them. I support Net Neutrality because it fosters this openness and accountability. While I trust the FCC has the authority it needs to adopt Net Neutrality rules, legislation that helps ensure it is the law of the land is welcome.”

President Biden is in favor of reinstating the Obama-era net neutrality rules, although it probably can’t be done through the FCC as long as the nomination of Gigi Sohn remains held up. Therefore, it would have to go through Congress, though it’s not clear if the bill would have the votes.

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for the National Interest, is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review, and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Image: Reuters.