On Wednesday, September 17, 2014 the Senate Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing entitled “Why Net Neutrality Matters: Protecting Consumers and Competition through Meaningful Open Internet Rules.” Committee Chairman Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) presided over the hearing, which followed the conclusion of the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC”) comment period concerning proposed net neutrality rules.
The newly proposed rules seek to replace rules that were struck down by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in January 2014. The new proposal continues to rely on existing FCC authority and would not reclassify internet service providers as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. The proposed rules generated a record number of comments, with more than 3.7 million filings submitted to the FCC.
Both proponents and opponents of the net neutrality rules were present at the hearing. Echoing statements made by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), one witness stated that the FCC should not regulate the Internet and that the current Internet access market does not need fixing. On the other side, Senator Al Franken (D-MN) stated that a lack of net neutrality would limit innovation and alter the status quo of the Internet ecosystem. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has stated that he hopes to conclude the rulemaking process on this issue by the end of the year.