Congressional Dems Introduce Bill to Restore FCC’s Open Internet Rules

Bill could serve to nudge FCC's Wheeler to act soon

The debate over net neutrality in Washington is just getting started. Just days after President Obama pledged during a Google+ hangout that he supported net neutrality, Democrats rallied in Congress to put some legislation behind his words. 

Rep. Henry Waxman (Calif.), ranking member of the House commerce committee, Rep. Anna Eshoo (Calif.) and Sen. Ed Markey (Mass.) introduced a bill that would restore the Federal Communications Commission's non-discrimination and no-blocking rules struck down two weeks ago by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The brief, two page Open Internet Preservation Act would keep the rules in effect until the FCC takes final action to address the court's decision, which affirmed that the FCC has some authority over broadband. Six other House Dems and five Senate Dems signed on as original co-sponsors.

Since the D.C. Circuit remanded the rules back to the FCC, Democrats and a number of public interest groups have predicted nothing but doom and gloom for the future of the Internet, concerned that the court's decision gives Internet service providers like AT&T and Verizon carte blanche to run roughshod over Internet traffic and consumers.

"This bill ensures that consumers, not their Internet service provider, are in the driver's seat when it comes to their online experience," said Eshoo.

Though the bill is likely to go nowhere in a GOP-controlled House, that may not be its ultimate purpose. FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has said numerous times since the court decision that he plans to move on an open Internet proceeding shortly and, with the way things are in Congress, it's highly likely he'll get to it before those chambers do. 

The bill is undoubtedly dead on arrival in the House, where the GOP passed a resolution opposing the FCC's rules. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the communications and technology subcommittee, has repeatedly said he would oppose any such legislation and it's his committee that would have to agree to take up the bill.

"We remain vigorously opposed to any attempt to install the FCC as the traffic cop of the Internet," Walden said Monday. "Innovation, job creation and consumer choice have all flourished without so-called net neutrality rules."

So any action on new open Internet rules is all resting with Wheeler. But at least now, with the introduction of the bill, Wheeler knows he has a lot of support from both the President and the Dems in Congress for whatever path he takes.