A bill introduced in Congress this week could repeal net neutrality regulations put into place in 2017 by the Federal Communications Commission. The move would restore Obama-era protections for a free and open internet.
North Coast Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) is a co-sponsor of the Save the Internet Act and is pushing for a repeal to the FCC’s decision.
“Net neutrality is an essential component of maintaining a free, open and equitable internet system,” said Huffman in a prepared statement. “The Federal Communication Commission’s decision to repeal these crucial protections was a terrible mistake, driven by corporate interests and a complete disregard for the American people.”
The Congressional bill is a mere three pages and rather than rewriting new regulations it simply seeks to repeal the rules set out by the FCC in 2017.
The bill seeks to prevent service providers from blocking or throttling the internet or prioritizing some content over others. It also seeks to restore funding for broadband access for rural communities as well as for veterans, seniors and disabled residents.
“Internet service providers should not be reaping the benefits of this special interest giveaway while American families, entrepreneurs and small business owners suffer the consequences,” Huffman said. “I’m glad to stand with Californians and all Americans by supporting the Save the Internet Act to protect them from the corporate greed of internet service providers.”
Access Humboldt executive director Sean McLaughlin compared the bill to the one California enacted last year. He called the legislation “very hopeful.”
“This is what we are hoping for,” said McLaughlin. “It basically matches the legislation that was adopted in California at the state level. California did get out in front of this after the FCC did the wrong thing. And that is currently being tied up in court.”
McLaughlin noted there are multiple paths seeking the same result — in addition to the legislation both in California and at a federal level, there is litigation tied up in the courts against the FCC’s 2017 rules.
McLaughlin said he is also pushing for local municipalities to act.
“There are other steps that can be done at the local level,” he said. “Our longer-term goal is to help build infrastructure that is controlled locally. Right now, we only have service provided by Suddenlink or AT&T or wireless providers.”
Supporters of the bill say there is overwhelming support to get it passed.
“A full 86 percent of Americans oppose the Trump assault on net neutrality, including 82 percent of Republicans. That’s hopeful,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at a news conference earlier this week. “With the Save The Internet Act, Democrats are honoring the will of the people and restoring the protections that do this: Stop unjust discriminatory practices by ISPs that try to throttle the public’s browsing speed, block your internet access and increase your costs. This is about freedom, it’s about cost.”
Huffman said he believes the bill can cruise through the now Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. He added there is a “small margin” of support in the Senate to get the bill through Congress. He’s less sure about when it lands on President Donald Trump’s desk.
“I’m not sure he’s ever taken a firm position on this although his FCC has been terrible,” Huffman said Friday afternoon.
Ruth Schneider can be reached at 707-441-0520.