Republicans have introduced a net neutrality bill that critics say will only reinforce fears of “fast lanes” and “slow lanes” in light of the Federal Communication Commission‘s (FCC) vote to repeal the Obama-era rules.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) announced on Tuesday that she introduced the “Open Internet Preservation Act,” which she claims would “ensure there is no blocking” and “no throttling,” of internet traffic.
“We have a bill, the Open Internet Preservation Act. We can do this now that Chairman Pai has successfully done his job of getting the net neutrality rules off the books,” she said. “We are back to Title I for an internet service, and yes, to preserve a free and open internet. No blocking, no throttling, disclose all of the rules.”
@AjitPaiFCC has done his job, now it's up to Congress to do theirs. This bill will ensure there is no blocking, no throttling. It is my honor to sign this bill- let's get it to @realDonaldTrump's desk. pic.twitter.com/jOf0fvFwcd— Sen. Marsha Blackburn (@MarshaBlackburn) December 19, 2017
However, critics fear that the Blackburn’s bill would only enhance some of the fears internet activists have had before and after the FCC voted, along party lines, to dismantle the 2015 Open Internet Order, essentially killing net neutrality rules. Net neutrality is a founding principle of the internet that ensures all internet traffic is treated equally.
The Open Internet Preservation Act would “prohibit” blocking of lawful content online, but it does not block internet service providers (ISPs) from creating paid prioritization services, or, as critics say, creating “fast” or “slow” lanes on the internet for those who pay more or less. The bill would also stop state governments from creating their own net neutrality laws, Ars Technica reports.
The former net neutrality rules did stop ISPs from charging websites for paid prioritization.
“Marsha Blackburn is not fooling anyone. She’s so desperately out of touch with how the internet works that it would be funny if she wasn’t in a position of power,” Evan Greer, a campaign director for internet advocacy group Fight for the Future, said. “This is not real net neutrality legislation. It’s a poorly disguised slap in the face to internet users from across the political spectrum. Blackburn’s bill would explicitly allow internet providers to demand new fees from small businesses and internet users, carving up the web into fast lanes and slow lanes. Changing the fundamental structure of the internet in this way would be devastating for innovation, creativity, and free expression online.”
Similarly, Craig Aaron, the CEO of Free Press Action Fund, said Blackburn’s bill “opens the door to rampant abuse through paid prioritization schemes” that would “split the internet into fast lanes for the richest companies and slow lanes for everyone else.”
“This bill’s true goal is to let a few unregulated monopolies and duopolies stifle competition and control the future of communications,” Aaron said in a statement. “This cynical attempt to offer something the tiniest bit better than what the FCC did and pretend it’s a compromise is an insult to the millions who are calling on Congress to restore real Net Neutrality.”
Democrats are already mounting an effort to stop the FCC’s vote to repeal net neutrality rules from taking effect by introducing a Congressional Review Act resolution to undo the decision. The effort has been endorsed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).