The Republican Plan To Restore Net Neutrality

It’s almost like there’s an election coming up

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Remember back in December when the FCC shrugged its shoulders and decided that Net Neutrality wasn’t its problem? Remember when the broadband industry backed the FCC’s abdication, citing a need for “regulatory certainty” rather than being subject to the whims of a federal agency whose leadership changes every 4–8 years?

Well, the broadband industry should be careful what it wishes for. Representative Mike Coffman (R-CO 6)has introduced a bill he calls the “21st Century Internet Act” [Ed: the bill doesn’t have an official House designation at the time of publication] which, he says, will “codify into law the ‘four corners’ of net neutrality: no throttling, no blocking, no paid prioritization and oversight of interconnection (exchange points between ISP’s and backbone transit providers)”

The Senate already voted 52–47 to overrule the FCC’s abdication of Net Neutrality with a Congressional Review Act challenge, putting the ball in the House’s court. While the CRA challenge hasn’t made much progress in the House, Republicans there have challenged Democrats to support Net Neutrality legislation instead… though there has been a real lack of any to support. Until now.

By introducing this bill, Representative Coffman calls both sides on the carpet and, if the CRA vote is any indication, if the bill can clear the House, the Senate shouldn’t be a challenge.

Coffman’s bill protects the ability of broadband providers to offer new services which don’t break the rules so long as they’re not offered as an attempt to get around the regulation of plain-vanilla-broadband. This, and the absence of language forbidding practices like zero-rating, leaves a door open for a less neutral internet should the FCC decide to rule that way.

On the other hand, by focusing on broad ideas rather than specific implementations, Coffman’s bill has some resiliency to it. It both resolves the issue of the FCC’s abdication and allows the agency future latitude in policing whatever tactics the cable industry uses to try to get around its Net Neutrality mandates.

Resistbot chief policy wonk, coder, writer, drinker of coffee and builder of things