Top congressional Democrats on Wednesday introduced legislation to restore the open internet rules repealed by the Trump administration in 2017.
Democrats in the House and Senate introduced companions bills aimed at reinstating the Obama-era net neutrality rules that prohibited broadband providers from blocking or throttling websites or offering preferred businesses higher-quality service for additional fees.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, at a press conference announcing the legislation, said that reinstating net neutrality would help advance American democracy, economic possibilities, and entrepreneurship, “creating opportunities and empowering communities.”
Provisions in the legislation, known as the Save the Internet Act, also aim to prohibit the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from ever reissuing any order to dismantle the protections without congressional action.
“The Save the Internet Act would enact true net neutrality protections by codifying the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order as a new, free-standing section of law, that would ensure the internet remains an open platform for innovation and competition,” said Congressman Mike Doyle, who chairs the House Communications and Technology subcommittee.
In a party-line vote, Republicans at the FCC scrapped the net neutrality rules in December 2017. The commission’s chairman, Ajit Pai, claimed the “light-touch” regulations establish in their place would give broadband providers more incentive to innovate and build networks; whereas the old rules had hampered investment and deployment, he said.
Pai’s frequent remarks about the harms allegedly caused by the Obama-era rules were often contradicted by the broadband providers themselves. And as of at least late January, the new jobs and industry-wide investments Pai promised had not materialised.
Far from it, AT&T and Verizon initiated huge layoffs in the United States last year, despite also benefiting hugely from Trump tax cuts. In October, Verizon also announced that it had no plans to accelerate its 5G deployment.
The internet must be “free and open and fair,” said Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, who framed the issue as a struggle between average Americans and big special interests. “Now we have a Democratic House,” he said, “and Republicans will have a second chance to right the Trump administration’s wrong.”
“The Save the Internet Act reinstates the legal framework that ensures that the Internet will remain open and free,” said Gigi Sohn, who was counselor to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. “I applaud the bicameral group of lawmakers who introduced this bill for acting to return the Internet to where it belongs—in the hands of Internet users, not broadband providers.”