House Democrats passed a bill Wednesday that would reinstate Barack Obama-era net neutrality rules; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) declared the bill “dead on arrival” in the Senate.
House Democrats passed H.R. 1644, the Save the Internet Act, 232-190, featuring unanimous Democrat support and nearly unanimous Republican opposition to the bill–only one Republican, Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL), supported the bill.
Even though the bill passed through Congress’ lower chamber, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said the bill was “dead on arrival” on Tuesday.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed the “Restoring Internet Freedom Order” in December 2017, which repealed the Obama-era net neutrality rules. The Obama-era rules prevented Internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking, throttling, or prioritizing content on their networks; the Internet Freedom Order requires ISPs to disclose their policies on blocking, throttling, and unfair prioritization, which the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) could then litigate unfair and deceptive practices.
Since the FCC’s repeal of the 2015 net neutrality rules, Internet speeds have skyrocketed. Internet speed-test company Ookla released a study one year after net neutrality’s repeal and found that Internet speed increased by 35.8 percent, while upload speeds have increased by 22 percent compared to 2017.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) released a statement Wednesday slamming the Democrats’ bill, contending that it would put more government control over the Internet.
“When Democrats voted for their so-called ‘Save the Internet Act,’ they didn’t vote to encourage innovation or improve internet access. Instead, they offered their favorite – and indeed their only – policy solution: more government control,” McCarthy said.
Republican FCC Commission Brendan Carr released a statement Wednesday saying that after they repealed the Obama-era rule, Internet speeds have increased and more Americans continue to have access to the wonder of the Internet.
“The United States has turned the page on the failed broadband policies of the Obama Administration,” Carr said. “By getting the government out of the way, Internet speeds are up 40%, the digital divide is closing across rural America, and the U.S. now has the world’s largest deployment of next-generation 5G networks.”
There’s a lot of common ground on net neutrality, but this bill studiously avoids it. It elevates the partisan politics of Title II over widely-supported rules of the road and would turn back the clock on the progress America is making,” Carr added.
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) chastised the Democrats’ move to restore the Obama-era Internet regulations, contending that it would stifle free speech and ruin the openness of the Internet.
“The Internet is the most powerful information technology ever invented thanks to free enterprise and minimal government regulation,” Brooks said. “Yet, Socialist Democrats seek to ‘Save the Internet’ by regulating it and stifling the free speech and openness that combine to make the Internet earth-shatteringly amazing.”
Small and medium-sized ISPs contend that the regulations would only stifle investment and competition against America’s largest ISPs such as Comcast or Verizon. Matthew Polka, president of America’s Communications Association (ACA), said in a statement Wednesday:
The bill would revive Federal Communications Commission rules that turn ISPs into common carriers and impose onerous and outdated regulations on them. This added regulation would not make the Internet more open.
“It would only retard investment in higher performance broadband networks,” Polka added.