House passes bill to restore 'net neutrality' rules

Ian Bush
April 10, 2019 - 12:33 pm
A router and internet switch

Charles Krupa/AP, file

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(Associated Press/KYW Newsradio) — The House passed a bill Wednesday to restore Obama-era "net neutrality" rules, but the legislation faces slim odds of making it through the Republican-controlled Senate.

The Save the Internet Act passed the Democrat-controlled House 232-190 Wednesday, with only one Republican vote in favor. But top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that net neutrality is "dead on arrival in the Senate." The Trump administration also opposes the bill.

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Still, the effort to restore net neutrality could give Democrats political points on consumer protections.

"Whether they are Republicans, Democrats, or Independents, 86 percent of the American people want these rules restored," said Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle.

His bill would bring back the ban on blocking, speeding up, or slowing down websites and services — in effect, overruling President Donald Trump's Federal Communications Commission.

"It's the wild, wild west. Let the ISPs do anything they want and consumers be damned," Doyle alluded.

The 2015 net neutrality regulations barred internet service providers like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T from blocking or slowing online traffic or from charging companies for faster lanes for consumers. They were highly partisan in Washington and came after a decade of telecom-industry resistance.

They were upheld by a federal appeals court, but the FCC scrapped the rules after the Trump administration installed a Republican majority there. That meant there was nothing stopping ISPs from interfering with internet traffic so long as they disclosed it.

Oregon Republican Rep. Greg Walden said this bill isn't a way to settle the issue.

"Tax administrators are going to do what they do best, and that's find a way to charge fees and taxes on this category since they understand how to get milk from every cow that walks by," he said. "And guess who's getting milked? It's the consumers."

The net-neutrality saga continued as tech companies and nearly two dozen U.S. states sued to undo the 2017 repeal and restore the 2015 measure. A decision by a federal appeals court on that is pending. California also has a net-neutrality law, which is on hold until the appeals court decision.

In Congress, Republicans have introduced three other bills that net-neutrality advocates say are too weak because they don't give the FCC the power to go after potential bad behavior by ISPs aside from blocking, throttling and charging internet companies for zippier access to users.

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