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Lawmakers Prepare New Net Neutrality Proposal

Federal communications Commission logo Things are happening behind closed doors regarding net neutrality and Internet access. The Washington Post reported on December 19:

"Republicans in Congress appear likely to introduce legislation next month aimed at preventing Internet providers from speeding up some Web sites over others... The industry-backed proposal would preempt efforts by the Federal Communications Commission to draw up new rules for Internet providers."

Details of the new legislation aren't final, but it does not reclassify Internet access as a utility. It would create:

"... a separate provision of the Communications Act known as "Title X"... Title X would enshrine elements of the tough net neutrality principles called for by President Obama last month. For example, it would give FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler the authority to prevent broadband companies from blocking or slowing traffic to Web sites, or charging content companies such as Netflix for faster access to their subscribers — a tactic known as "paid prioritization." But those new powers would come with a trade-off... In exchange for Title X, the FCC would refrain from regulating net neutrality using Title II of the Communications Act..."

Some of the politics:

"The FCC is widely expected to unveil its net neutrality proposal in February or March, leaving little time for lawmakers to introduce a bill. By unveiling their legislation before [FCC Chairman] Wheeler's draft rules, Republicans could draw momentum away from the agency... If Wheeler struck first with proposed rules with aggressive net neutrality rules, many Democrats would likely find it harder to support a Republican alternative. On Thursday, Democrats led by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) sent a bicameral letter to Wheeler demanding that he act more swiftly to adopt new rules."

Reportedly, the proposal is backed by several unnamed telecommunications. The news article didn't say if the proposal will address "broadband deserts" (e.g., often rural area where consumers cannot get any high-speed Internet services), nor the high price of bradband services. A recent report found that the cost to consumers of Internet access is far higher in the United States compared to than other countries. Another report found that consumers seeking high-speed Internet service have few choices:

"... competition among broadband providers remains lacking... That's according to the Commerce Department, which this week released a new report regarding the state of broadband availability. Researchers found that people who want service of at least 10 Mbps -- which Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler says should be the new definition of broadband -- typically have a choice of just two wireline providers. In other words, broadband at that speed typically is a duopoly service."

The article didn't state whether the new proposal addresses the duopoly problem. Local laws in 20 states already prevent broadband competition by stopping cities and towns from building their own (low-cost to users) fiber Internet services. This keeps monthly prices by your Internet Service Provider (ISP) high. This limits the freedom of consumers to build broadband alternatives through their cities and towns. Bad for you; good for your ISP.

Given the extremely bank-friendly language drafted by Citigroup which was included in the recent spending omnibus bill, it is probably a safe bet that some mix of the largest telecommunications are drafting language for the lawmakers.

I guess lawmakers have become lazy, and are willing to let others do the work they were elected and sent to Washington to do: write the legislation themselves.


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