Democrats propose legislation that would force FCC to ban Internet fast lanes

Sen. Patrick Leahy and Rep. Doris Matsui were set to reveal bicameral legislation today

Topics: fast lane, Internet, FCC, Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., Rep. Doris Matsui, , ,

Democrats propose legislation that would force FCC to ban Internet fast lanesThis Oct. 14, 2013 file photo shows Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., walking through a corridor at the Capitol in Washington. (Credit: (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite))

Today the Washington Post reported that Democratic lawmakers in both the Senate and House would unveil legislation aimed to prevent an Internet fast lane.

The proposed bill was introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Calif. It would require the FCC to use its authority to prevent the speeding up of some Internet entities at the expense of others. For example, speeding up a streaming video service at the expense of another Web service. The Post reports:

“It wouldn’t give the commission new powers, but the bill — known as the Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act — would give the FCC crucial political cover to prohibit what consumer advocates say would harm startup companies and Internet services by requiring them to pay extra fees to ISPs.”

The ban on “fast lanes” would apply to the connection between consumers and Internet service providers (ISPs), and would fall into current net neutrality rules.

The lack of  new authority created by the bill, means that the FCC will have to rely on the current power it has to ban an Internet fast lane — a power that is legally dubious.

Currently the FCC allows for a “tiered” Internet between companies and ISPs, and it looks at each “paid prioritization” — or speeding up — on a case-by-case basis.

Reclassifying broadband as a public utility is something that consumer advocates hope that FCC chairman Tom Wheeler will eventually implement.



The issue of net neutrality — one that has garnered serious attention in recent months — is splitting down party lines. In May Rep. Bob Latta, R-Ohio, proposed a bill “that would prevent the FCC from reclassifying broadband,” according to the Washington Post.

h/t Washington Post

Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation. Follow @sarahhhgray or email sgray@salon.com.

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