Heeding the recommendations of various industry players and members of Congress who have called for a legislative mandate to protect the Open Internet, House Communications & Technology Subcommittee Chairwoman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced a bill on Tuesday that, in the words of Blackburn, would “ensure that the Internet cannot block or throttle users.”
Known as the Open Internet Preservation Act, the proposed legislation comes in the wake of the FCC’s decision last week to repeal Title II classification of broadband Internet access services (BIAS) and protections against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization that were adopted by the agency through the 2015 Open Internet Order. Joining a host of net neutrality advocates who have promised to pursue legal challenges against the FCC’s decision, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman confirmed last Friday that he will lead a multistate lawsuit against the FCC ruling to include attorneys general from Illinois, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and several other states. On Capitol Hill, Democratic lawmakers voiced support for plans by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) and ranking House Communications Subcommittee member Mike Doyle (DPA) to file resolutions of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) when the FCC order takes effect early next year.
While the bill introduced by Blackburn would codify the FCC’s decision to reclassify BIAS as a Title I information service, the measure would effectively restore former FCC protections against blocking and throttling by forbidding BIAS providers to “block lawful content, applications, services or non-harmful devices” or “impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of Internet content, application, or service, or use of a non-harmful device, subject to reasonable network management.” Network management would be deemed to be reasonable “if it is primarily used for and tailored to achieving a legitimate network management purpose, taking into account the particular network architecture and technology” of the broadband access service. Paid prioritization, however, would be allowed under the bill, which would also preempt state and local net neutrality regulations. The FCC, meanwhile, would be barred “by rulemaking or otherwise” from expanding the Internet openness obligations of BIAS providers beyond those specified by the bill and would be required to establish formal complaint procedures for addressing alleged violations of the statute within 60 days of the bill’s enactment.