Democrats have a new bill to bring back net neutrality rules Trump's FCC chair killed

Key Points
  • House and Senate Democrats unveil a bill that would reinstate net neutrality rules.
  • The bill aims to overturn a decision made by the FCC in 2017.
  • Democrats say this bill should garner more Republican support.
Speaker Pelosi introducing the Save the Internet Act

House and Senate Democrats on Wednesday unveiled a new two-page bill called the "Save the Internet Act," which proposes reinstating net neutrality rules that were repealed two years ago.

"86 percent of Americans oppose the Trump assault on net neutrality, including 82 percent of Republicans," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a press conference announcing the bill.

"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 browsing speed, block your internet access and increase your costs, giving to entrepreneurs and small businesses a level playing field and ensuring American innovation can continue to be the envy of the world," Pelosi said.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he expects the bill to pass both the Senate and the House.

"Last spring, our colleagues in the United States Senate were given that choice to side with the average person, rather than the big special interests, to side with protecting consumers and entrepreneurs," he said. "Unfortunately, all but three Senate Republicans voted on behalf of special interests. It passed the Senate, but unfortunately a Republican House of Representatives shelved it. Now we have a Democratic House, and Republicans have a second chance to right the Trump administration's wrong."

Pelosi said the bill will come to the floor in a matter of weeks. "We want this to be as bipartisan as possible because we know it is so in the public view," she said.

The bill would need to pass the Democrat-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate and be signed by President Donald Trump in order to change the FCC ruling that killed the Open Internet Order and net neutrality rules.

In December 2017, the FCC repealed the 2015 Open Internet Order, which required internet service providers to treat all internet traffic as equal and reinstated ISPs under a Title 1 classification that allowed them to set pricing and prioritize some types of internet traffic.

"The FCC's return in 2017 to the bipartisan, light-touch approach to Internet regulation has been a success," FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's spokeswoman Tina Pelkey said on Wednesday. "This time-tested framework has preserved the free and open Internet. It has promoted transparency in order to better inform consumer choice. It has unleashed private investment, resulting in more fiber being deployed in 2018 than any year before and download speeds increasing by an astounding 36%. And it has proven wrong the many hysterical predictions of doom from 2017, most notably the fantasy that market-based regulation would bring about 'the end of the Internet as we know it.' The Internet in America today is free and vibrant, and the main thing it needs to be saved from is heavy-handed regulation from the 1930s."

Proponents of net neutrality have long argued that treating internet data equally is best for consumers and will increase innovation. They feared that, without neutrality, consumers would have to pay extra to their internet providers just to access certain websites or apps, or might have to pay more to get access to enough bandwidth for streaming services.

Net neutrality detractors have suggested that certain industries could benefit from paid prioritization, like autonomous vehicles and medical systems, where human lives might be on the line, and which require constant and fast internet connections.

Even the FCC was divided over the 2017 vote.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who supports the new bill, said during the 2017 vote that the decision "put this Federal Communication Commission on the wrong side of history" and called for the government to "sustain this foundation of openness." Pai, who broke a tie vote on the issue, said, "If our rules deter a massive infrastructure investment that we need, eventually we will pay the price in terms of less innovation. ... It is time for us to restore internet freedom."

What is net neutrality?