Dem leaders introduce bill to ban paid fast lanes on Internet

Democratic congressional leaders have introduced legislation they say will make sure the Internet remains accessible to all online services and keeps the net free of so-called "fast lanes."

The proposal, introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) requires the FCC to use whatever authority it deems appropriate to ensure Internet providers don't allow some types of content to have priority over others.

The bill wouldn't give the FCC new powers per se, but would give the commission political cover to prohibit ISPs from creating paid tiers of service. The Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act will require the Federal Communications Commission to ban "paid prioritization" agreements between broadband service providers and content providers.

The bill comes amid a public backlash over proposed rules that the FCC opened to public comment last month. Those rules, drafted by Chairman Tom Wheeler, are meant to reinstate regulations passed by the FCC in 2010 that were supposed to keep the Internet open but were thrown out on a legal technicality by a federal appeals court in January.

Because the bill doesn't give the FCC new powers, some experts say there is a limit on how effective it will be overall. Consumer advocates have suggested the FCC reclassify broadband as a utility but broadband companies said loopholes in the law could create traffic discrimination.

Meanwhile, as the U.S. Conference of Mayors gathers in Dallas this weekend, among the many resolutions they will consider is one urging the FCC to establish strong net neutrality rules. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild have proposed a resolution calling on the FCC to reclassify the Internet as a utility.

The city leaders will also consider a resolution from Madison, Wis., Mayor Paul Soglin to urge the FCC to preempt state laws that prohibit cities from offering their own broadband service as competition to Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA), AT&T (NYSE: T), Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC), Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and other Internet providers.

For more:
- the Washington Post has this story
- CNET has this story
- Variety has this story

Related articles:
FCC to focus on whether wireless should be treated like wireline on net neutrality
WSJ report: Pay TV mergers will trigger media consolidation
NCTA to Wheeler: 'We'll help you grasp peering … which is not net neutrality'

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