On 6 March 2019, Democrats in the House and Senate introduced the “Save the Internet Act of 2019.” The three-page bill (1) repeals the FCC’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order released in early 2018, as adopted by the Republican-led FCC under Chairman Ajit Pai; (2) prohibits the FCC from reissuing the RIF Order or adopting rules substantively similar to those adopted in the RIF Order; and (3) restores the Open Internet Order released in 2015, as adopted by the Democratic-led FCC under Chairman Tom Wheeler.
- Broadband Internet Access Service (BIAS) is reclassified as a “telecommunications service,” potentially subject to all provisions in Title II of the Communications Act.
- The three bright line rules of the Open Internet Order are restored: (1) no blocking of access to lawful content, (2) no throttling of Internet speeds, exclusive of reasonable network management practices, and (3) no paid prioritization.
- Reinstates FCC oversight of Internet exchange traffic (transit and peering), the General Conduct Rule that authorizes the FCC to address anti-competitive practices of broadband providers, and the FCC’s primary enforcement authority over the Open Internet Order’s rules and policies.
- Per the Open Internet Order, BIAS and all highspeed Internet access services remain subject to the FCC’s exclusive jurisdiction and the revenues derived from these services remain exempt from USF contribution obligations.
- The prescriptive service disclosure and marketing rules of the Open Internet Order, subject to the small service provider exemption, would apply in lieu of the Transparency Rule adopted in the RIF Order.
FCC Chairman Pai promptly issued a statement strongly defending the merits and benefits of the RIF Order.
- From a political perspective, Save the Internet Act of 2019 garners support from many individuals and major edge providers committed to net neutrality principles but faces challenges in the Republican-controlled Senate.
- In comments filed in the proceeding culminating in the RIF Order, the major wireline and wireless broadband providers supported a legislative solution that codified the no blocking and no throttling principles but not the no-paid prioritization prohibition or classifying BIAS as a telecommunications service.
It is highly unlikely that the legislation will be enacted as introduced. Though still unlikely, there is a better chance that a legislative compromise may be reached.