Democrats are stepping up the fight for net neutrality again by introducing a new bill on Thursday that would codify the highly divisive open internet rules.
Led by Sens. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), the Net Neutrality and Broadband Justice Act would reclassify broadband internet service as an essential service, empowering the Federal Communications Commission to enforce rules prohibiting discriminatory practices such as blocking and throttling certain lanes of internet traffic.
Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) heads the bicameral legislature in the House.
“We need net neutrality so that powerful social media companies can’t beat their competition by making deals with major broadband providers,” Markey said at a news conference on Thursday. “We need net neutrality so that users can always speak up freely on social media and tell their personal stories about reproductive health, about gun violence and climate change, and make their voices heard so they can organize peaceful protests in our country.”
The legislation is set to meet President Joe Biden’s goal of restoring net neutrality. Last summer, Biden signed an executive order that included guidance for the FCC to reinstate Obama-era regulations. But for the past two years, Democratic commissioners have failed to push through new rules without the help of Republicans. Since Biden took office, the FCC has not had a Democratic majority with a stalled 2-2 panel of commissioners.
The nomination of Gigi Sohn, Biden’s choice to secure that majority, has been stalled in the Senate for nearly a year.
In 2017, Ajit Pai, FCC chairman under Trump, reversed the former administration’s open internet rules as part of his highly unpopular Restoring Internet Freedom order. After the move, Democrats attempted to pass net neutrality rules in Congress, relying on rarely used rules like the Congressional Review Act and sponsorship measures like the Save the Internet Act.
But with Sohn’s appointment for the foreseeable future, Markey’s most recent bill may be Democrats’ last hope of restoring net neutrality this year.
Thursday night, Markey is holding a Reddit AMA on the r/politics subredditwhere he will answer questions about the bill.
“Broadband is not a superfluous luxury. Broadband is essential,” Markey said on Thursday. “Shall we seize this opportunity and make sure our country’s broadband future works for everyone? Or are we accepting the Trump FCC’s unjust regulatory approach that harms competitors and consumers in our country?”