The Federal Communications Commission in May approved a controversial proposal to create an “internet fast lane,” but two Democratic lawmakers will put forth a bill on Tuesday that would force the FCC to ban those same fast lanes, according to The Washington Post.
The new proposal was created by Senate Judiciary Committee chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.). The bill — called the Online Competition And Consumer Choice Act — would require the FCC to use its authority to ensure internet providers don’t speed up or slow down certain types of content at the expense of others.
In other words, the Online Competition And Consumer Choice Act would reinforce the original principles of net neutrality by treating all data packets that travel across the internet equally — at least between consumers and their internet provider.
“Americans are speaking loud and clear,” Leahy said at a net neutrality hearing in Vermont last month. “They want an Internet that is a platform for free expression and innovation, where the best ideas and services can reach consumers based on merit rather than based on a financial relationship with a broadband provider.”
The legislation wouldn’t give the FCC any new powers, but it would give the commission the ability to prohibit “fast lane” connections between consumers and ISPs, which is allowed by the current FCC proposal. It’s still unclear whether the FCC is legally able to ban this kind of internet traffic discrimination, however.
Many have said the FCC should reclassify broadband as a Title II common carrier service, which would subject internet service providers to the same kind of regulation the phone companies receive. Because even if these two Democratic senators get their wish and ban traffic prioritization, there’s a loophole in the current law that allows for traffic discrimination as long as it isn’t “unjust” or “unreasonable.”
Currently, the issue of net neutrality is divided across political party lines, with Democrats pushing for internet equality while Republicans last month submitted a bill that would prevent the FCC from reclassifying broadband service as a common carrier. Tom Wheeler, the FCC chairman, said he will reserve the reclassification of ISPs as a Title II common carrier in case his current plan fails to protect consumers.
For those still trying to wrap their heads around the issue of net neutrality, comedian John Oliver did a wonderful job at explaining the issue in a colourful manner on his new HBO show, “Last Week Tonight.” Check out the clip below.
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