How Do You Change the Net Neutrality Debate?
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Round-Up for the Week of July 16-20, 2018
On July 17, 2018, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) changed the network neutrality debate. Through two bold steps, Rep. Coffman disrupted the ongoing Republican vs Democrat divide on the issue and became, perhaps, the most prominent Republican to not just provide lip service to the “open internet,” but to make a positive proposal to enshrine net neutrality consumer protections for broadband users. First, Rep. Coffman introduced legislation that would amend U.S. communications law to provide for internet openness requirements for broadband internet access service providers. Simultaneously, Rep. Coffman signed a discharge petition that would force a vote in the U.S. House on a resolution that would overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s 2017 repeal of net neutrality rules.
Rep. Coffman said his constituents have been incredibly vocal about this issue and that factored into his decision. Rep. Coffman, a Marine veteran of two Iraq wars, also mentioned a December 2017 trip to an isolated Marine Corps base in Kuwait where the junior Marines between 18 and 21 years old saw net neutrality protections as a top issue.
Introducing the 21st Century Internet Act
Rep. Coffman introduced H.R. 6393, the 21st Century Internet Act. Acting on the belief that the “Federal Communications Commission has failed to provide the regulatory certainty that our economy needs by endlessly reclassifying broadband access between Titles One and Two” of U.S. communications law, H.R. 6393 would create a new title for broadband to ensure the FCC follows standards specifically set by Congress. H.R. 6393 includes the following provisions:
- Broadband Internet Access Service (BIAS) providers (e.g. Comcast or AT&T) may not block or throttle online content or services.
- BIAS providers may not engage in paid prioritization arrangements.
- Utilization of content delivery networks (e.g. Akamai, Cloudflare, Level 3 Communications) shall not be considered a form of prioritization.
- Specialized services (dedicated network access for businesses) are unaffected, but such services may not be used to evade the net neutrality protections.
- The FCC shall have oversight of interconnection – the “traffic exchange” points between long-haul, backbone providers, and the “last mile” service provided by BIAS providers.
- BIAS providers may not charge access fees to edge providers to avoid blocking or throttling.
- BIAS providers may engage in reasonable network management activities to ensure traffic flows effectively across their portion of the network.
- BIAS providers are required to publicly disclose their network management practices, performance, and commercial terms of service. Competitively-sensitive information and security details are exempt from disclosure, but are subject to review by the FCC.
- The bill clarifies that the FCC has jurisdiction over broadband internet access services.
- BIAS providers may not interfere or disadvantage internet conduct by end users and/or edge providers. This provision, also known as the “general conduct standard” from the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet order, ensures that any actions by BIAS providers that are not sufficiently addressed by the bill’s net neutrality provisions but would harm broader open internet principles are covered. This standard mirrors former FCC Chairman Michael Powell’s "Four Internet Freedoms" from 2004.
- BIAS providers are barred from engaging in unfair or deceptive acts or practices and the FCC may investigate such behavior.
- The bill ensures that both broadband equipment and services are accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.
- The FCC shall enforce the obligations of the bill through the adjudication of complaints and rulemaking under existing FCC authority.
Benefits for Broadband Service Providers
- BIAS providers are eligible to receive universal service funds and the FCC may require such providers to also contribute to the fund.
- The bill makes no changes to BIAS providers obligations or authorizations to address emergency communications, law enforcement, public safety or national security.
- The FCC may not prescribe the rate that a BIAS provider may charge.
- To ensure certainty in the market, the FCC may not forbear from the provisions of the bill.
Supporting the “Repeal of the Repeal” of Net Neutrality Rules
Even as he proposed new net neutrality legislation, Rep. Coffman became the first House Republican to sign a discharge petition that, if enough Members join, could force a vote on a Congressional Review Act resolution that would overturn the FCC’s 2017 repeal of net neutrality rules.
"I obviously prefer a legislative solution to the CRA," said Rep. Coffman. "But absent anything, I think the CRA is better than nothing." He added, "At this point in time, the fundamental issue is to have legislation moving forward. That’s why I’m supporting the CRA, to put pressure on House leadership as well as members on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, to have this debate."
In an op-ed published in Colorado Politics, Rep. Coffman wrote:
Congress can no longer defer to the FCC and must provide their members with clear, unambiguous direction in this area. I hope that my colleagues in the House of Representatives will support both my bill and the CRA. Doing so will allow Congress to take an “all of the above” strategy in defending our Internet freedoms and a competitive online marketplace.
It is time for Congress to act and I am proud to lead the charge in supporting consumers, small business owners, main street businesses, tech startups, and edge providers by establishing an “Internet Constitution” we all can rely on. The Internet is just too important. I invite you to join me in this effort.
Rep. Coffman’s moves this week have garnered much attention in the media – and much support from net neutrality advocates. His actions follow on a speech he delivered earlier this year (see Rep Mike Coffman Outlines a Net Neutrality Compromise). Responding to his constituents, Rep. Coffman puts pressure on other House Republicans to do the same. This could create new momentum in the House for the CRA resolution and the discharge petition, which has now been signed by 177 Members – just 43 more signatures are needed to force a vote. Stay tuned for what happens next.
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- Deal Critics to Tribune Board: Abandon Merger or Quit (Broadcasting&Cable)
- EU Fines Google Record €4.3bn over Android (Financial Times, The Guardian)
- Why Platform Regulation Is Both Necessary and Hard (Harold Feld, Public Knowledge)
- Defining “Digital Platform” (Harold Feld, Public Knowledge)
- Cost of Exclusion as a Proxy for Dominance in Digital Platform Regulation (Harold Feld, Public Knowledge)
- There is a lot to Fix in US Antitrust Enforcement Today (Prof. Fiona M. Scott Morton)
- Death in the Air: One Woman's Crusade Against Broadcast Media Consolidation (Popula)
ICYMI from Benton
- An Open Letter to My Daughters on Net Neutrality (Adrianne B. Furniss)
- Let’s Get Vertical (Jonathan Sallet)
- From Availability to Accessibility: Hyper-Local Public-Private Partnerships (Allister Chang, Brian Wallace)
- Under Assault (Michael Copps)
- Introducing Judge Brett Kavanaugh: Siding with Big Business and Big Brother (Robbie McBeath)
July 23-24 Making Connections: A Regional Broadband Summit (Next Century Cities)
July 25 The Race to 5G: Exploring Spectrum Needs to Maintain U.S. Global Leadership (Senate Commerce Committee)
July 25 Oversight of the Federal Communications Commission (House Commerce Committee)
July 26-27 Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (Federal Communications Commission)
July 26 Raising the Standard: Bringing Security and Transparency to the Internet of Things? (New America)
July 31 Tribal Workshop at Lac du Flambeau Reservation (Federal Communications Commission)
August 2 August 2018 Open Federal Communications Commission Meeting (Federal Communications Commission)