Net neutrality bill expected this week

A Democratic plan to give the FCC new Net neutrality authority over the Internet was rejected two years ago. Now it's back.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi once said that, without new Net neutrality laws, "telecommunications and cable companies will be able to create toll lanes on the information superhighway. This strikes at the heart of the free and equal nature of the Internet."

That was nearly two years ago. At the time, legislation giving the Federal Communications Commission new regulatory authority over the Internet was rejected by a 269-152 vote in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

Since then, even though her party has controlled Congress for over a year, Pelosi and her fellow Democrats haven't exactly rushed to enact Net neutrality regulations into law. Maybe it's because cooler heads prevailed; maybe it's because Alyssa Milano and other celebrities are no longer talking about it. I offered some speculations last fall.

Now Rep. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who championed the unsuccessful amendment two years ago, is planning to re-introduce it as soon as Tuesday. His office didn't want to give us a copy on Monday, indicating it was still being drafted. (It's been delayed--Markey had planned on finishing it last year.)

The Open Internet Coalition, which includes, eBay,, Google, and a number of left-leaning advocacy groups, is already heralding the bill's reappearance. It circulated a statement Monday evening saying Markey's legislation "will make Net Neutrality the law of the land, and will require the FCC to protect Internet freedom from the predatory efforts of the telco and cable gatekeepers."

Maybe. It still needs to be enacted first, and that means persuading Congress to take on broadband providers that are politically far better connected than their Web-based opponents. It's also likely to shift the debate over copyright, blocking of peer-to-peer traffic, and reasonable network management to Washington far more than it already has been--injecting political uncertainty into this dispute, with eventual results that may not please either Markey or his enthusiastic allies.

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