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Democrats in House and Senate introduced a bill this week to restore FCC authority to force internet service providers (ISPs) to treat all web traffic with the same priority, rather than unfairly blocking or throttling for profit or competitive advantage. It also required transparency from ISPs regarding the specific features of consumer broadband connections.
The legislation was introduced in 2015 to combat situations like AT&T’s attempt to block iPhone owners from using FaceTime without an upcharge. A significant bipartisan majority of Americans support Net Neutrality, but it wouldn’t be the first time the elected officials ignored what their voters want.
Net Neutrality was stripped away in December 2017 in a controversial 3-2 vote by the FCC to repeal, prohibits discrimination against lawful content by ISPs. Since then, ISPs returned to old tricks by imposing usage caps on users streaming video from Netflix but didn’t impose the same restrictions on other streaming sites. Sprint throttled high-volume traffic unless consumers signed expensive contracts. Verizon banned HD streaming on the “unlimited plan” unless consumers paid a premium, and also suffered bad press coverage last year after forcing firefighters to upgrade or endure throttling amid a historic forest fire.
The goal of the bill introduced this week is to restore the 2015 protections and would permanently bar the FCC from repealing the rules again. Hearings are expected within the next several weeks, but it’s likely to be a while before it comes up for a vote. It’s similar to legislation passed in 2018 by the Senate but left to die on the vine in the (then-Republican) controlled House without a vote. Even if the Democrats can rally votes in support this year, it is still likely to be vetoed by Trump, who is opposed to the legislation.
As you can imagine, large internet providers like AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon oppose the newly proposed bill, as well as the state-sponsored bills like California’s law that prohibits zero rating, which is what it’s called when AT&T allows unlimited data for DirecTV Now viewers.
If the newly introduced Net Neutrality bill fails, there’s still hope that the ongoing lawsuit against the FCC could restore consumer protections.
Megan Southard is a writer, mom, technology enthusiast, and movie junkie. She dreads the day her kids have to explain gadgets to her and is old enough to say, "I was the remote for our TV growing up."
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