The issue of net neutrality is accelerating towards deadlock on Capitol Hill. While House Republicans organize to overturn the rules passed by the Federal Communications Commission, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D.-Wash., offered a bill Tuesday that would codify those rules.
Sen. Cantwell's bill, the Internet Freedom, Broadband Promotion and Consumer Protection Act, would give the FCC clear authority to regulate the Internet under Title II of the Communications Act, protecting the FCC from court cases such as the two recently filed by Verizon and MetroPCS. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn. signed on as a co-sponsor.
"Without the strong protections provided by this bill, broadband Internet providers will likely favor their own or affiliated content, service and applications because they have the economic incentives and technical means to do so," Cantwell said. "We can't afford to let this happen if our nation is to achieve the important broadband goals put forward in the [FCC's] National Broadband plan."
Several public interest groups, including the Free Press, Public Knowledge and Consumers Union, weighed in with support for Cantwell's bill.
Meanwhile, on the House side, Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Oversight Subcommittee, is preparing to hold hearings on net neutrality, now tentatively scheduled for Feb. 16. On the day the FCC passed the rules, committee Republicans vowed to overturn the rules, accusing the FCC of overstepping its authority.
Like the fight shaping up in Congress, the FCC's own battle was waged along party lines, as the rules passed thanks to three Democratic supporters, versus two Republican opponents. The rules were crafted to ensure the Internet operates the way it operates now, preventing blocking of lawful content, applications or services, requiring Internet services to let consumers know their network management practices, and prohibiting ISPs from discriminating against any lawful content or giving preferential treatment to certain content.