Democratic lawmakers look to restore Net neutrality

Bills in the House and Senate would restore the FCC's rules after an appeals court threw them out

A group of Democratic lawmakers have introduced a bill in both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives to restore Net neutrality rules at the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

The two bills, introduced Monday, come about three weeks after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District Columbia Circuit struck down rules, passed by the FCC in late 2010, prohibiting broadband providers from selectively blocking or slowing Web traffic.

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The new bill, called the Open Internet Preservation Act, would restore the FCC's Net neutrality, or open Internet, rules. The rules would remain in effect until the FCC takes new action on net neutrality, after the court left open the agency's authority to pass new rules if it finds a new way to write them.

Among the nine Democratic cosponsors in the House are Representatives Henry Waxman, Anna Eshoo, Zoe Lofgren and Doris Matsui of California. Among the six Senate cosponsors are Senators Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Al Franken of Minnesota and Ron Wyden of Oregon.

The bill faces an uphill battle in the House, where majority Republicans pushed to repeal the FCC's net neutrality rules before the appeals court threw them out.

"The Internet is an engine of economic growth because it has always been an open platform for competition and innovation," Waxman, senior Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a statement. "Our bill very simply ensures that consumers can continue to access the content and applications of their choosing online."

Waxman called on the FCC to take action on Net neutrality, but said the bill would "protect" consumers and innovators in the meantime.

The bill may meet a more receptive audience in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

"The open nature of the Internet has made it the most successful commercial and communications medium in history," Markey said in a statement. "The Internet's vitality and openness drives competition, innovation and job creation and we need to ensure it remains a level playing field for consumers and innovators in the wake of the D.C. circuit court decision."

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for the IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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