Three Republican members of Congress introduced net neutrality-related bills on Thursday, but Congress is still far from a two-sided agreement to restore rules prohibiting broadband providers from blocking, deleting or otherwise discriminating legitimate content.  During a hearing by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington), Greg Walden (R-Oregon) and Bob Latta (R-Ohio) said they had proposed net neutrality bills. No one has yet published the text of their bills, but their speeches and previous laws indicate that their proposals will fall far short of the sweeping protections sent by the Obama era Federal Communications Commission in 201
During the hearing, lawmakers from both parties agreed repeatedly the need for basic net neutrality protection. It represents some progress on the problem. Many GOP lawmakers have questioned the need for such rules for years, and the now Republican-led FCC voted to abolish its net neutrality rules at the end of 2017. Since the problem has become more common in recent years, polls show both democratic and Republican voters favoring net neutrality protection, Republicans have at least started paying lip service to the idea of net neutrality. But many house republicans remain against some of the most important provisions of the 2015 rules.
The democratic takeover of the house last year's elections has changed the political net neutrality calculator, pushing both sides against a two-part deal, even as a federal court considering a lawsuit that challenges the legality of the FCC's decision to overcome the rules. Thursday's hearing, however, suggested that there is still a large gap between the two party's ordinary positions.
The Obama era reclassified broadband as "Title II" telecommunications service, similar to telephone services. It also imposes a "general behavior" rule which the broadband providers must not "abnormally interfere with or unreasonably disturb" lawful content, and gave the FCC authority to intervene in cases such as carriers, with the exception of preferred content from customer data usage and "interconnection" agreements that Internet service providers make with each other in each case.
McMorris Rodgers said her bill is based on a state law passed last year in Washington, which contains "bright lines" rules against blockage, deletion, or paid paid "fast lanes". She also said that her bill would counteract state laws, including the Washington Act and the more robust California law last year. The Washington State Law that McMorris Rodgers based its bill does not contain a general rule of conduct and does not cover data capsules or interconnection rules. Walden said his bill would be similar to a bill proposed by Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota) and Representative Fred Upton (R-Michigan) in 2015 who contained bright line rules but did not include a general rule of conduct or coverage of data capsules or interconnection. The Thune-Upton bill also forbids the FCC from classifying broadband as a Title II service, and it applied to a 2014 proposition proposed by Latta.
Even before the FCC voted to reverse the Obama era rules, large cellular network providers were strangling video on certain unlimited plans unless customers paid to upgrade to more expensive plans. It is not clear yet whether the new bills would ban this practice. The representatives did not respond to WIRED requests for comments.
Last year, representative Mike Coffman (R-Colorado) proposed a more comprehensive online neutrality bill that would have created a new title III broadband rating. The bill was never advanced, and Coffman lost his re-election bid last year.
Despite the ample evidence to the contrary, the Republicans said during the hearing that the Obama FCC's net neutrality regime led Internet providers to reduce investment in broadband infrastructure. "Do we want to regulate the internet as a tool from the 1930s, one where stressful regulation and price regulation exacerbate innovation?" McMorris Rodgers asked.
Some broadband providers, such as Comcast and Charter, actually increased investments in 2015 and 2016. Others, such as AT&T, reduced investments, but told shareholders years before the FCC adopted its rules that they planned to cut infrastructure costs after implementing network upgrades.
In a statement Thursday, the industrial group USTelecom increased the spending of the six largest US broadband providers in 2018 as evidence that the adoption of the net neutrality rules had increased broadband investment, despite reduced expenses from Comcast and Verizon. But even US Telecom admits that these figures do not tell the whole story. "The key issue for policy makers is not what happens to broadband investments from one period to the next, but what long-term investment will look like under another regulatory system," the organizational task said.
Many Democrats claim that "Title II" protection is crucial For the FCC to protect consumers, Tom Wheeler, who was the FCC chair when adopting the neutrality rules, said that if the agency is limited to enforcing "light lines" rules, it would not be able to polish bad behaviors that are not explicitly defined in the rules.
"Consumers have no place to turn when disguised by these big corporations because the FCC took off completely," said representative Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey). Looking at the Internet slowly changing in front of their eyes. "
A particular event has become a flashpoint in the debate. During the Mendocino Complex Fire in 2018, Verizon reduced the mobile internet rates for firefighters, according to a card filed by the county of Santa Clara, California as part of the federal case against the FCC. paid for "unlimited" plans for firefighters, but the plan limited the connection speed to 1/200 of its regular speeds after exceeding 25 GB of data. "This damper has had a significant impact on our ability to provide emergency services," briefly tells. The county was only able to recover the entire speed after contacting Verizon's billing department and switching to a new plan that costs twice as much.
"By supporting first respondents in the Mendocino fire, we didn't live up to our own promise about service and excellent performance when the process failed with some first line respondents, says Verizon director Mike Maiorana in a statement last year. The company created a new plan in response. Maiorana said.
The California event, which was raised several times by the Democrats during the hearing, is not a classic net neutrality problem because Verizon deletes all content, does not favor particular content or content types. However, Verinson's behavior may have fallen below the general rule of conduct against unreasonable disturbing relationships, and the incident shows the types of enforcement issues that may arise when the FCC is not empowered to protect consumers.