Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Senator Leahy and Congresswoman Matsui Introduce Landmark Net Neutrality Legislation

Senator Patrick Leahy's office issued the following yesterday:

June 17, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA), member of the House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee, introduced bicameral legislation to require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to ban so-called “paid prioritization” agreements between a broadband provider and a content provider.  The Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act would help prevent the creation of a two-tiered Internet system, ensuring start-ups and entrepreneurs have access to the marketplace and ensuring consumers can access all content equally. Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.), Congressman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) are original cosponsors of the legislation.

“Americans are speaking loud and clear – 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,” said Senator Leahy, who will hold a field hearing on the issue of net neutrality in Vermont next month. “The Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act would protect consumers and support a free and open Internet. The Senate should pass this important piece of legislation.”
“A free and open Internet is essential for consumers, and to encourage innovation and competition in the Internet ecosystem.  Our country cannot afford ‘pay-for-play’ schemes that divide our Internet into tiers based on who has the deepest pockets.  The Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act will ban paid prioritization and ensure fair competition and consumer choices online.  This is essential to the growth of our economy, and the health of our democracy,” said Congresswoman Matsui.  

“Net neutrality is the principle that all Internet traffic must be treated equally,” said Senator Franken, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law. “And that’s the way it should be—the website of a Minnesota small business should load as quickly as the website of a large business. Since the FCC’s rules for net neutrality were struck down earlier this year, I’ve been fighting hard to make sure that the Internet remains an open marketplace where everyone can participate on equal footing. Our bill would be a huge step towards preserving the Internet as we know it.”

On May 15, 2014, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Proposal (NPRM) seeking public comments on how best to restore the Open Internet rules that were struck down by the D.C. Circuit earlier this year.  One of the questions that the FCC poses in its NPRM is whether certain practices, such as paid prioritization, should be banned entirely.

The Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to prohibit paid prioritization agreements between Internet Service Provider’s (ISP) and content providers on the last mile Internet connection, the connection between the ISP and the consumer.  In addition, it would prohibit broadband providers from prioritizing or otherwise giving preferential treatment to its own last mile Internet traffic or the traffic of its affiliates over the traffic of others.