Rep. Ed Markey, (D-MA), Chairman of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee, introduced an Internet neutrality bill
on Feb. 13th that would establish pro-neutrality principles as expressions of U.S. policy. It also calls on the FCC to do a detailed assessment of how current broadband providers' practices are consistent or inconsistent with those principles. Unlike some previous bills, Markey's bill would not establish a binding set of rules or prohibitions for broadband providers.
Enacting this bill would be a good step forward in the neutrality debate. First, the bill makes a strong statement that U.S. policy should favor the continued maintenance of a free and open Internet, with users -- rather than network operators -- determining what content, applications, and devices will succeed in the marketplace. Second, it expressly writes the objective of a free and open Internet into the Communications Act, the core statute governing national communications policy. And third, in contrast to the "no regulatory action needed whatsoever" lobby, it expressly endorses the adoption of "baseline protections" to guard against the risk of network operators taking a new role as Internet gatekeepers.
It would be important, however, to ensure that the broad assessment the bill assigns to the FCC not be interpreted as signaling Congress's approval of an expanded FCC role in overseeing and regulating the Internet generally.
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