Senate bill aims to restore net neutrality, including throttling safeguards

Whether or not the legislation will succeed is another matter.

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WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 14:  Rally organizers carry away props following a protest outside the Federal Communication Commission building against the end of net neutralityrules December 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. Lead by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, the commission is expected to do away with Obama Administration rules that prevented internet service providers from creating different levels of service and blocking or promoting individual companies and organizations on their systems.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Politicians are making another attempt to restore net neutrality rules. Democrat Senators Ed Markey and Ron Wyden have introduced a Net Neutrality and Broadband Justice Act that would classify broadband internet as a telecom service under Title II of the Communications Act. The move would let the FCC restore net neutrality protections repealed by the Ajit Pai-era Commission in December 2017, including safeguards against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization for data traffic.

The bill would also help the FCC institute policies that improve accessibility, safety and "close the digital divide," according to Markey's statement. Another 28 senators, including independent Bernie Sanders and prominent Democrats like Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren, are co-sponsors. California Representative Doris Matsui is sponsoring an equivalent bill in the house. The measure has the endorsement of civil rights and activist groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Democrats have tried to revive net neutrality before with efforts like 2019's Save the Internet Act. As Markey explained to The Register, though, they're trying a different strategy. The new bill is purposefully short at just two pages long — that brevity gives the FCC the regulatory power to adapt to the "changing nature of the internet," the senator said. Previous attempts tried to enshrine specific rules in law.

The Act's survival is far from certain, though. It needs to advance beyond a Senate committee, and Congress will go into recess during August. A Senate vote might not succeed unless Democrats can pass the 60-vote threshold needed to avoid a filibuster, and the House bill isn't guaranteed to pass if it comes up for a vote after the November midterm elections.

The FCC isn't guaranteed to resurrect net neutrality even if the bill becomes law, for that matter. The Commission is currently deadlocked with two Democrats and two Republicans. Nominee Gigi Sohn still hasn't been confirmed. An FCC vote on neutrality-related policy changes could easily fail, even though the agency would have the authority (and effectively the obligation) to reinstitute consumer protections.

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Senate bill aims to restore net neutrality, including throttling safeguards