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April 02, 2019

Net Neutrality Bill To Take Crucial Step In House Ahead Of Vote

One week after coming through a House subcommittee vote with no major changes of amendments, the Save the Internet Act—the Democrat-backed bill that would restore the 2015 net neutrality regulations repealed by the Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission last year—will go  to the full Energy and Commerce Committee for a full markup on Wednesday.  The markup process is the last step before sending the bill to the full House for debate and a vote scheduled for next week. But in the markup process, though the text of the bill itself cannot be altered, amendments could be added that change or water-down the legislation. Each amendment must be approved by a vote of the committee, which is now controlled by a Democratic majority.  The Communications and Technology Subcommittee approved the bill last week with no amendments, by an 18-11 party-line vote, as AVN.com reported.  Though the new net neutrality restoration bill would still face an uphill battle even if it passes the House, requiring a majority vote in the Republican-controlled Senate as well as a signature of approval from Donald Trump, the urgency of putting net neutrality rules back in place was made clear last week by Federal Trade Commission Chair Joseph Simons, who was appointed to the post by Trump last year.  Under the FCC’s net neutrality repeal, responsibility for regulating internet service providers shifted from the FCC to the FTC, which under the law would take a “light touch” to overseeing how online traffic is handled. But in a speech to the conservative Free State Foundation think tank on March 26, Simons said that "blocking” or  “throttling” of online data by ISPs would not necessarily be considered an anti-trust violation, and therefore would not be subject to FTC regulation. "The FTC is, principally, a law enforcement agency. It is not a sector regulator like the FCC," Simons told the conservative group, as quoted by Ars Technica.  Simons added that under the law, ISPs would be required to “disclose” any decisions to block or slow down traffic from certain sites because failure to do so could constitute an “unfair or deceptive act,” which would come under the FTC’s law enforcement purview. But even if ISPs let consumers know what they’re doing, the companies are free to handle online data as they choose, as long as net neutrality rules are not in place. Photo by Slowking4/Wikimedia Commons 

 
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