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What They’re Saying: E&C Republicans Unveil Three Net Neutrality Bills


WASHINGTON, DC – Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans unveiled three net neutrality bills at a hearing yesterday in an effort to find a bipartisan legislative solution for net neutrality.

Could Congress Settle the Net Neutrality Debate, Once and for All?

As net neutrality goes through its fourth go-around in the courts, what are the chances that Congress will find a fix?

The new Democratic House majority held its first hearing on the issue on Thursday, and Republicans came to the session with a series of legislative proposals.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the committee’s ranking member, said he was introducing legislation that would prohibit ISPs from blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization. Other legislation is being proposed by Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio), ranking member of the communications and technology subcommittee, and another from Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash).

“Despite the long track record on net neutrality, I believe there is plenty of room for consensus here,” Latta said.

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GOP Hints At Net Neutrality Compromises They’d Consider

Republican lawmakers elaborated Thursday on the kinds of internet legislation they could support in lieu of net neutrality rules instated and enforced by the Federal Communications Commission, unveiling three different bills they say could lay the groundwork for a compromise.

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the committee’s former chairman, suggested Congress should look to state legislation for inspiration and said he’s filing a bill to amend the definition of a Title I information service under the Communications Act.

According to a copy of his bill, it would codify the FCC’s former protections of no blocking, no throttling and no paid prioritization but it would not invoke the authority of Title II of the Communications Act, as the Obama FCC wrote to include in its now-overturned rules.

“I acknowledge there might’ve been times when our side should have accepted some offers, but the same could be true, instead, for the other side. That’s why I have introduced the offer I made in 2015, which codifies the FCC’s protections so they are not subject to changing administrations and commissions,” Walden said.

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Republicans in Congress Are Talking Net Neutrality, at Least

Three Republican Members of Congress introduced net-neutrality-related bills Thursday, but Congress is still a long way from a bipartisan deal to restore rules banning broadband providers from blocking, throttling, or otherwise discriminating against lawful content.

During a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington), Greg Walden (R-Oregon), and Bob Latta (R-Ohio) all said they had proposed net neutrality bills. None has released the text of their bills yet, but their speeches and previous legislation suggest their proposals will fall far short of the sweeping protections passed by the Obama-era Federal Communications Commission in 2015.

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Net neutrality is facing an old partisan divide in a new Congress

“Title II is the outlier here,” Greg Walden (R-OR), ranking member of the full committee, said. “Title II sounds innocuous, but it gives big government unlimited authority to micromanage every single aspect of a provider’s business, that includes setting rates. There is nothing neutral about this kind of authority.”

Walden, and Republicans in general, said that internet service providers should not be able to block, throttle, or engage in discriminatory behaviors like paid prioritization, but he argued that Title II classification was not the way to secure these central pillars of net neutrality regulation.

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House members hint at bipartisan net neutrality bill

There’s bipartisan agreement on the need for rules preventing internet service providers from blocking and discriminating against web traffic, but how the rules will be enforced will likely be a sticking point.

Republicans opposed the Obama-era FCC’s reclassification of the broadband industry as telecommunications services under Title II of the Communications Act. The designation opened up the industry to utility-style regulation and moved it under the FCC’s jurisdiction.

Republicans at Thursday’s hearing said the reclassification was overly burdensome.

“It throws away 20 years of a bipartisan consensus that built the modern internet and replaces it with authority that dates back to the early 1900s used to govern monopoly telephone companies,” said Rep. Greg Walden (Ore.), the top Republican on the committee. “It may innocuous, ‘Title II,’ but it gives enormous power to the federal government, an unlimited authority to micromanage every single aspect of a provider’s business, including rates.”

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House Republicans unveil net neutrality bills in nudge at Democrats

House Energy and Commerce Republicans today floated three net neutrality bills to ding Democrats for not already coming to the negotiation table on the issue.

“A permanent, legislative solution produced in good faith with our Democratic colleagues is the only way to protect consumers, innovation, and an open internet,” committee ranking member Greg Walden (R-Ore.) will say in opening remarks at an E&C net neutrality hearing today, expressing disappointment Democrats haven’t begun negotiating on open internet legislation.

Democrats say they eventually want legislation to revive net neutrality rules, but these three measures seem unlikely to slake their desire for strong regulations.

The bills—from Walden, telecom subcommittee ranking member Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) and consumer protection subcommittee ranking member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.)—would all write net neutrality principles into law but avoid classifying broadband as a tightly regulated telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act, as the repealed Obama-era open internet rules did.

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