House & Senate Democrats Go Full-court Press to Bring Back Net Neutrality

By Steve Anderson February 04, 2014

The idea of net neutrality—the basic principle that traffic on the Internet is traffic, no matter what kind of traffic it may happen to be or from where it may originate—has garnered plenty of consideration from all over lately, and the United States Senate is no different. Neither is the United States House of Representatives. In both branches of government, Democrats have brought out a bill that seeks to give the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) a little extra pull and get net neutrality principles back in play.

The two bills follow a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals in which the FCC's ability to prevent Internet service providers from blocking or otherwise slowing down traffic on a selective basis, rules that were passed by the FCC back in the closing days of 2010. While there was some suggestion that the FCC was simply going to try and recast the rules to make said rules more amenable to the courts and to the FCC's power to act, Congress appears to be out to do the job for the FCC.

The bills both seek to do something similar, at last report, though the House's version—the Open Internet Preservation Act—specifically looks to return the FCC's net neutrality rules, and keep said rules in effect until the FCC moves in a different direction on the concept. While the Democrat majority in the Senate suggests smooth sailing for at least the Senate version, the Republican majority in the House might make for a tougher slog. Reportedly, several Republicans were calling for a repeal on net neutrality issues even before the courts threw out said issues.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) was one of those sponsoring the bill, along with several other California Democrats. Waxman remarked “The Internet is an engine of economic growth because it has always been an open platform for competition and innovation. Our bill very simply ensures that consumers can continue to access the content and applications of their choosing online.”

On the one hand, it's easy to see how, suddenly, the loss of net neutrality might mean significant changes to the way we access the Web and its accordant functions. Around a year and a half ago, Comcast Xfinity video was seen not counting against a Comcast bandwidth cap, while service from Netflix did. The idea that Comcast, free of net neutrality rules, might instead choose to slow Netflix to an unwatchable crawl while leaving Xfinity sharp, clear and crisp makes some sense given that. Yet by like token, there are those out there who suggest that leaving such principles in government hands just isn't a good idea to begin with. Good in principle, but given the comparative lack of competition seen in many ISP markets—some markets have just one provider, while others have no provider at all short of the commonly-held last resort that is satellite access—it's hard to bring free market principles fully to bear in what is basically an oligopoly or even outright monopoly.

Still, with so much business being conducted on the Internet, with the Internet replacing many former staples of our world from the local newspaper to the corner store, it's hard to imagine anyone willing to get in the way of such an operation. Only time will tell just what these new laws bring to the table, but with this much at stake, it's going to be quite worth watching.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

Contributing TechZone360 Writer

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