Net Neutrality Draft Bill Leaks as OIC Decides to Drop Support

A leaked draft of a proposed net neutrality bill outlines the FCC's regulatory role if the bill is passed.

A draft of a net neutrality bill proposed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman and Sen. Harry Waxman (D-Calif.) leaked by the blog Tech Daily Dose and Washington, D.C.-centric technology blog Hillicon Valley, would curb the Federal Communications Commission's ability to enforce the guidelines laid out in the bill after two years. The agency would not be allowed to impose additional rules on Internet service providers.

The leaked draft states wireline providers should not "block lawful content, applications, or services, or prohibit the use of non-harmful devices, subject to reasonable network management" or "unjustly or unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful traffic over a consumer's wireline broadband Internet access service", while wireless providers "shall not block lawful applications that compete with the provider's voice or video communications services in which the provider has an attributable interest."

The draft also said the FCC may issue a fine or forfeiture of up to $2 million for any practice found to violate the rules laid out in the preceding paragraphs. In addition, wireline providers must disclose information "in plain language" regarding the price, performance and network management practices of its wireline broadband Internet access services, in order for consumers to make informed choices about their broadband Internet use, as well as for services and for content, application, service and device providers to develop and market Internet offerings.

The language in the draft classifies "reasonable network management" as a network management practice that is "appropriate and tailored to achieving a legitimate network management function" and takes into account the particular network architecture or technology of the provider. "It includes appropriate and tailored practices to reduce or mitigate the effects of congestion on a broadband Internet access provider's network; to ensure network security or integrity; to address traffic that is harmful to or unwanted by users, including premise operators, or to the provider's network, or the Internet; to meet the needs of public safety; and to provide services or capabilities to effectuate a consumer's choices, including parental controls or security capabilities," the draft stated.

Hillicon Valley reported sources saying members of the OIC (Open Internet Coalition), which includes companies such as Facebook, Google and Skype, have decided not to support or fight the bill. "Part of OIC's problem with the bill, sources said, is that draft versions impact the varied member companies in very different ways," wrote a Hillicon Valley blogger. "Several people with knowledge of the group said leading voices in the Open Internet Coalition (OIC) hoped to support the bill as it was developed this month, but a lack of consensus was clear as the latest drafts arose."

Comments from Claude Chafin, a spokesman for Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Communications subcommittee, suggests Republican opposition to the bill may pose difficulties for its attempted passage through Congress. "How fitting that in the last days of this Congress, Democrats would draw up a bill to regulate one of the few non-government sectors of our economy still creating jobs," Chafin told Hillicon Valley on Sept. 27.