POLITICO - Dems prep net neutrality bill

February 3, 2014
In The News

By Tony Romm and Alex Byers

A group of congressional Democrats is drafting a bill to restore the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules — reversing, at least for a time, the federal court decision that struck them down.

The still-unreleased proposal, from California Reps. Henry Waxman and Anna Eshoo and Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, would allow the FCC to revive its Open Internet Order, requiring service providers to treat all kinds of Web traffic equally, according to two industry sources. That power would remain in place until the FCC can devise a policy to replace the one rejected by the court, the sources said.

The measure, once introduced, faces tough odds in the House, where Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton and Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Chairman Greg Walden — have long opposed the FCC’s net neutrality order.

Spokespeople for Waxman, Eshoo and Markey could not be reached for comment on Friday. Waxman is ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce panel, and Eshoo is the top Democrat on its communications and technology subcommittee. Markey is a member of the Senate Commerce Committee.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision on Jan. 14 sent the FCC back to the drawing board on net neutrality but didn’t take away the agency’s tools to draw up new regulations. The commission’s chairman, Tom Wheeler, hasn’t revealed much about his plans but said he intends to accept the court’s invitation to act.

Waxman, a longtime net neutrality supporter, announced immediately after the court’s decision he would work “with the FCC to revise the rules on the books that protect the free and open Internet.” The veteran congressman said this week he plans to retire at the end of the current Congress. Republican leaders on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, meanwhile, have begun a broad review of the FCC’s authorities under the guiding 1996 Telecommunications Act.

Markey may find a more sympathetic ear in the Senate, where the Commerce Committee is led by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.). Rockefeller said after the court decision he would “stand ready” to help the FCC as it weighs new ways “to make sure that that both consumers and competition are protected through a free and open Internet.”