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GOP Rep. Mike Coffman has proposed a new bill to solidify the principles of net neutrality into law, rather than them being a set of rules to be modified by the FCC every year. The bill known as the 21st Century Internet Act would ban providers from blocking, throttling, or offering paid fast lanes. It will also forbid them from participating in paid prioritization and charging access fees from edge providers.

It could take some time for this amendment to be voted on in the Congress. It mostly depends on the makeup of Congress after the midterm elections.

The 21st Century Internet Act modifies the Communications Act of 1934 and adds a new Title VIII section full of conditions specific to internet providers. This new title permanently codifies into law the ‘four corners’ of net neutrality”. The amendment proposes these measures:

  • No Blocking
    A broadband internet access service provider can not block lawful content, or charge an edge provider a fee to avoid blocking of content.
  • No Throttling
    The service provider cannot degrade and enhance (slow down or speed up) the internet traffic.
  • No Paid prioritization
    The internet access provider may not engage in paid preferential treatment.
  • No unreasonable Interference
    The service provider cannot interfere with the ability of end users to select, the internet access service of their choice.

This bill aims to settle the long ongoing debate over whether internet access is an information service or a telecommunications service. In his letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, Coffman mentions, “The Internet has been and remains a transformative tool, and I am concerned any action you may take to alter the rules under which it functions may well have significant unanticipated negative consequences.”

As far as the FCC’s role is concerned, The 21st Century Internet act will solidify the rules of net neutrality, barring the FCC from modifying it. The commision will solely be responsible for watching over the bill’s implementation and enforce the law. This would include investigating unfair acts or practices, such as false advertising, misrepresenting the product etc. The Senate has already voted to save net neutrality, by passing the CRA measure back in May 2018. The Congressional Review Act, or CRA received 52-47 vote, overturning the FCC and taking net neutrality rules off the books.

The 21st century Internet Act is being seen in a good light by The Internet Association, which represents Google, Facebook, Netflix and others, who commended Coffman on his bill and called it a “step in the right direction.” For the rest of us, it will be quite interesting to see the bill’s progress and its fate as it goes through the voting process and then into the White House for final approval.

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