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Net neutrality

Lawmakers introduce bill to restore 'Net Neutrality' rules

Friday, February 14, 2014 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: net neutrality, lawmakers, Federal Communications Commission

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(NaturalNews) It is one of those pieces of legislation that should be unnecessary, but as it happens, it is being welcomed, especially by online publishers, bloggers and other producers of news and opinions that might be considered unruly by the ruling class.

A group of Democratic lawmakers have introduced a bill designed to allow the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reestablish so-called "Net Neutrality" rules that were struck down by a federal appeals court in January.

As reported by the Huffington Post:

Under the Open Internet Preservation Act of 2014, the FCC could enforce net neutrality rules, which require telecom companies to treat all websites equally, until the agency comes up with a permanent solution to last month's [court] ruling. ...

Democrats said they are hopeful they will shore up more support among their colleagues, although even some of the more progressive members of the party have aligned themselves with telecom companies in the past. The bill will also likely hit a roadblock with Republican lawmakers, who have tried multiple times to repeal the FCC's net neutrality rules.

FCC act ruled improper by federal appeals court

Indeed, House Republicans considered killing net neutrality rules last fall, in exchange for going along with raising the debt ceiling. When HuffPo asked if the Waxman-Eshoo bill even had a chance of coming up for a vote in the House, which the GOP controls, a Republican leadership aide simply responded, "No."

For their part, Republicans have said they back the appeals court ruling, because when the FCC initially approved an order called "Preserving an Open Internet," the agency exceeded its authority. In addition, Republicans say the order puts the government in the position of deciding who gets access to the Internet and which companies benefit. And they say that, before the FCC issued its regulations, the Internet was already open, free and "net neutral."

Still, some Internet rights and free speech groups are hopeful that the FCC will exert the authority that they say it has to restore its rule over the Internet. As such, they have undertaken a campaign with Free Press to urge the agency to do so. So far, advocates have collected more than a million signatures in support of federal net neutrality rules, and some 85 groups have backed the issue, including the Sierra Club, the American Civil Liberties Union, the uber-progressive MoveOn.org, Reddit and the Counsel on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR.

"We're calling on the FCC to reclassify broadband connections as 'telecommunications services,' a simple move that would allow it to pass robust net neutrality rules that would actually hold up in court," Free Press said in a statement. "Without net neutrality, the internet as we know it could be a relic of the past."

The FCC's authority to issue the rules was challenged by Verizon in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, where challenges to federal regulations are most generally heard. In January, the court ruled that the agency had indeed overstepped its authority, and ordered a recision.

GOP endorsed 'Internet freedom' in 2012

President Obama has also weighed in. During a recent live video chat, he repeated earlier support for net neutrality and said he was confident that the FCC would take new action to ensure an open Internet.

"It's something that I've cared deeply about ever since I ran for office, in part because my own campaign was empowered by a free and open Internet and the ability for citizens all across the country to engage and create and find new ways and new tools to mobilize themselves," Obama said. "A lot of that couldn't have been done if there were a lot of commercial barriers and roadblocks and so I've been a strong supporter of net neutrality."

He went on to say that, while it was important to respect the court's decision, FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler, who was appointed to the agency by the president, is examining all options available to the agency to evaluate and respond to the court's ruling.

"The one good piece of news coming out of this court opinion was that the court did confirm that the FCC can regulate this space -- they have authority," Obama said. "And the question now is how do they use that authority. If the old systems and rulings that they had in place were not effective in preserving net neutrality, do they have other tools that would stand up to court scrutiny that accomplishes the same goals?"

In its 2012 platform, the GOP endorsed "Internet freedom."

"We will ensure that personal data receives full constitutional protection from government overreach and that individuals retain the right to control the use of their data by third parties," the party said.






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