Blackburn Hopes Her Net Neutrality Bill Resolves Conflict

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Many sides have weighed in on Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s draft “Open Internet Preservation Act,” introduced this week. The measure is meant to replace some of the 2015 Net Neutrality rules the FCC just repealed when the internet was re-classified as a utility. The issue pertains to towers because internet providers like Verizon and AT&T use cell towers to deliver internet access to consumers over wireless networks.

Blackburn, chair of the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee, said the measure “will ensure the internet is an open and free space” with “light-touch regulation.” It prohibits providers from blocking or slowing down some internet content. If passed, she said in her announcement, companies “can invest and innovate, and make sure our internet is up to 21st century standards.” It also includes the same ISP disclosure provisions the FCC passed. 

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) said the measure “kicks off this important conversation, and lays the groundwork for Congress to enact broadly bipartisan principles that will preserve the dynamic internet ecosystem that has driven so much growth and innovation over the last two decades. I hope our Democratic colleagues will rethink their public strategy to ‘litigate not legislate’ as we begin this serious legislative effort.”

The Wireless Infrastructure Association praised the measure, with WIA President/CEO Jonathan Adelstein saying the legislation “creates a predictable business environment, which will encourage private investment in building robust wireless networks. Congress remains the ideal venue to address this issue in a way that provides the certainty that will maximize capital investments in U.S. wireless infrastructure.”     

Opponents say the draft doesn’t go far enough, and is a watered down version of what the FCC just passed. It does not prohibit paid content prioritization, for example. Blackburn told The Washington Post, “there is not agreement” on the issue. Critics say paid fast lanes would mainly benefit wealthy companies and websites. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (NJ), Ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, stated the bill “was worse than I expected.”

Others agree with Walden that the measure can get a conversation going to resolve the issue once and for all. Think tank TechFreedom President Bernie Szoka told the Post: “The point is to get both sides talking.”

December 21, 2017               

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