Jon Brodkin at Ars Technica reports [arstechnica.com] that the House Energy And Commerce [house.gov] committee approved the Save The Internet Act [govtrack.us], which rolls back the Federal Communications Commission's [wikipedia.org] (FCC)* 2017 repeal [fcc.gov] of its 2015 order on network neutrality [fcc.gov][PDF].
The Ars Technica article states:
Democrats in the US House of Representatives yesterday rejected Republican attempts to weaken a bill that would restore net neutrality rules.
Commerce Committee Republicans repeatedly introduced amendments that would weaken the bill but were consistently rebuffed by the committee's Democratic majority. "The Democrats beat back more than a dozen attempts from Republicans to gut the bill with amendments throughout the bill's markup [wikipedia.org] that lasted 9.5 hours," The Hill reported [thehill.com] yesterday.
Republican amendments would have weakened the bill by doing the following:
- Exempt [house.gov] all 5G wireless services from net neutrality rules.
- Exempt all multi-gigabit broadband services [house.gov] from net neutrality rules.
- Exempt from net neutrality rules any ISP that builds broadband service in any part of the US that doesn't yet have download speeds of at least 25Mbps and upload speeds of at least 3Mbps.
- Exempt from net neutrality rules any ISP [house.gov] that gets universal service funding from the FCC's Rural Health Care Program.
- Exempt ISPs that serve 250,000 or fewer subscribers [house.gov] from certain transparency rules that require public disclosure of network management practices.
- Prevent the FCC from limiting [house.gov] the types of zero-rating (i.e., data cap exemptions) that ISPs can deploy.
[amendment links above are all PDF]
Another Republican amendment [house.gov] [PDF] would have imposed net neutrality rules but declared that broadband is an information service. This would have prevented the FCC from imposing any other type of common-carrier regulations on ISPs.
The committee did approve a Democratic amendment [house.gov] [PDF] to exempt ISPs with 100,000 or fewer subscribers from the transparency rules, but only for one year.
Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) claimed that the Democrats' bill "is not the net neutrality that people want" and is "actually more government socialism," according to The Hill.
But the primary opponents of the FCC's net neutrality rules were broadband providers and Republicans in Congress, not the people at large. Polls showed that the FCC's repeal was opposed by most Americans: "Eighty-six percent oppose the repeal of net neutrality, including 82 percent of Republicans and 90 percent of Democrats," the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland reported last year [publicconsultation.org] after surveying nearly 1,000 registered voters.
"It's embarrassing watching telecom shills in these committee votes attempt to turn this into a partisan issue when it's actually quite simple: no one wants their cable company to control what they can see and do on the Internet, or manipulate where they get their news, how they listen to music, or what apps they can use," Deputy Director Evan Greer of advocacy group Fight for the Future said [fightforthefuture.org].
The now-repealed net neutrality rules prohibited ISPs from blocking or throttling lawful content and from charging online services for prioritization. The Democrats' bill would reinstate those rules and other consumer protections [arstechnica.com] that used to be enforced by the FCC. For example, Pai's repeal vote also wiped out a requirement that ISPs be more transparent [arstechnica.com] with customers about hidden fees and the consequences of exceeding data caps.
*The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent agency of the United States government that regulates communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable. The FCC serves the public in the areas of broadband access, fair competition, radio frequency use, media responsibility, public safety, and homeland security.