The policy winds have blown in favor of big broadband carrier lobbyists this year. Most notably, Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler announced a new set of net neutrality principals for ISPs to charge for faster transmission of Internet services like Netflix.
But a big public backlash over net neutrality silenced those winds. And now with a new bill sponsored by some very powerful members of Congress — Senate Judiciary Committee chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) — being introduced today, net neutrality may be back in vogue on Capitol Hill.
“Americans are speaking loud and clear,” Leahy said. “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, known as the Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act, would require that the FCC bar broadband carriers from selling so-called Internet fast lanes. For instance, Netflix would not be able to pay AT&T for faster delivery of its data packets to users than the data packets from smaller, competing internet video service that may not be able to pay for “premium” carriage.
The problem is that the new bill would not give the FCC any additional power to enforce net neutrality principles. One of the main problems around the net neutrality issue is whether or not the FCC has the mandate of Congress to prohibit Internet fast lanes.
But Leahy’s and Matsui’s bill, if passed, would be a clear political message that Congress wants the FCC enforce net neutrality. That may be worth something.