Sen. Harry Waxman (D-Calif.) says proposed legislation to regulate Internet service providers is dead.
Legislation aimed at regulating how Internet providers such as
Comcast offer Internet service to their customers has collapsed, said
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman and Sen. Harry Waxman
(D-Calif.), who also authored the proposed bill. A draft of the bill
earlier this week, which would curb the FCC's (Federal Communications
Commission) ability to enforce the guidelines laid out in the
bill after two years. The agency would also not be allowed to impose
additional rules on Internet service providers, the draft mandated.
A lack of support from Republicans made it impossible for the
legislation to pass before Congress' mid-term elections, Waxman said. "With great regret, I must report that Ranking Member
Barton has informed me that support for this legislation will not be
forthcoming at this time," he said in a prepared statement
"This development is a loss for consumers and a gain only for the
extremes. We need to break the deadlock on net neutrality so that
we can focus on building the most open and robust Internet possible."
The proposed legislation was termed as a temporary fix to protect net
neutrality while Congress considered a permanent solution. The bill
would have prohibited wireless broadband providers from blocking
Websites, as well as applications that compete with voice or video
conferencing and restore for two years the FCC's authority to prevent
blocking of Internet content, applications and services. "If our
efforts to find bipartisan consensus fail, the FCC should move forward
under Title II," Waxman said. "The bottom line is that we must protect
the open Internet. If Congress can't act, the FCC must."
Waxman's proposal for the FCC would see the agency move phone and cable
companies into Title II, or Broadcast Servers, section of the
Telecommunications Act passed in 1996. Title II outlines the granting
and licensing of broadcast spectrum by the government, including a
provision to issue licenses to current television stations to commence
digital television broadcasting, the terms of broadcast licenses,
direct broadcast satellite services and restrictions on over-the-air
"Under our proposal, the FCC could begin enforcing these open Internet
rules immediately-with maximum fines increased from $75,000 to
$2 million for violations," Waxman explained. "I do not close the door
on moving legislation this Congress. Cooler heads may prevail
after the elections. But I want my position to be clear: My goal
is the best outcome for consumers."
Digital rights pubic interest group Public Knowledge issued a statement
agreeing with Waxman's position that the FCC needs to step in to
legally protect consumers of broadband wireline and wireless Internet
service. "We are in full agreement with Chairman Waxman that the FCC
must act now to protect consumers by reinstating its authority over
broadband," said Public Knowledge President and co-founder Gigi Sohn.
"We expect the FCC to do so to carry out one of the fundamental
promises of the Obama administration. Consumers for far too long
have been without the legal protections the FCC can provide. The
economy will need the boost that the National Broadband Plan and
expanded affordable access to broadband could provide. These will not
be possible unless the FCC takes action."
Sohn thanked Waxman and his staff for work that went into
trying to craft "rudimentary rules of the road" for the Internet. "We
also observe that this effort would not have been needed had the FCC
followed through in its responsibility to set national
telecommunications policy. We can wait no longer," Sohn said. "We
expect those members of Congress who argued that it was Congress' duty
to set telecommunications policy would recognize the authority of the
FCC in the absence of legislation."