‘Paid Prioritization’ Ban Proposed by Sen. Leahy, Rep. Matsui
Posted at 2:02 p.m. on June 17, 2014
(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
It’s no secret that the FCC’s net neutrality proposal has drawn starkly different responses among lawmakers. The possibility of reclassifying broadband as a utility has drawn the ire of Republicans, with Ohio Republican Bob Latta introducing a bill a few weeks ago that would restrict the FCC from designating Internet service providers as a telecommunications service. For some Democrats, meanwhile, the idea of Internet “paid prioritization” is what warrants legislation.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., and Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Calif., are introducing a bill that would require the FCC to issue regulations that would ban broadband providers from entering into agreements with websites to prioritize their traffic over the “last mile” of connectivity leading to consumers. The regulations also would need to ban broadband providers from prioritizing their own traffic.
There’s been concern that the FCC’s proposal would create these “fast lanes,” and the agency is seeking comment on whether paid prioritization should be banned. For Leahy and Matsui, the answer is yes.
“Our country cannot afford ‘pay-for-play’ schemes that divide our Internet into tiers based on who has the deepest pockets,” Matsui said in a written statement. “The Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act will ban paid prioritization and ensure fair competition and consumer choices online. This is essential to the growth of our economy, and the health of our democracy.”
“Americans are speaking loud and clear — they want an Internet that is a platform for free expression and innovation, where the best ideas and services can reach consumers based on merit rather than based on a financial relationship with a broadband provider,” Leahy said in a written statement.
Here’s more from CQ Roll Call’s Rob Margetta
Such legislation, however, would face a tough path in Congress. Several prominent Republicans have already expressed concern about new rules on Internet speed deals, and condemned the FCC for its current consideration of possibly regulating broadband companies as common carrier utilities under Title II of a 1996 communications law (PL 104-104) instead of the more limited authority it now uses.
The FCC issued a rule prohibiting the throttling of Internet traffic and other discrimination in 2010, but a federal court struck it down earlier this year. The commission is currently considering a new draft rule, written to comply with that court decision, that would allow discrimination so long as it is “commercially acceptable.” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has insisted the rule would not allow the creation of fast or slow lanes, but critics say it would place the country on a path toward a tiered Internet.