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Policy

Senate Bill Is Title II Redux

1/31/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

Washington
— Think of it as
Title II, Capitol
Hill style.

Sen. Maria
Cantwell (DWash.)
last week
was pushing a
bill, the Internet
Freedom, Broadband Promotion and
Consumer Protection Act of 2011, that
would create a new section under Title II
of the Communications Act enshrining
the Federal Communications Commission’s
six new network-neutrality rules
and applying them to wireless services.

Those were steps the FCC was not
willing to take, at least not as part of
its Dec. 21 vote to expand and codify
its network-neutrality guidelines. But
the commission did apply transparency
and site-blocking prohibitions to
wireless as part of that vote and said it
would revisit the wireless space down
the road. It also left open the possibility
of reclassifying Internet-access services
under Title II, though said it could
justify its Title I ancillary authority.

Cantwell was joined by co-sponsor
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.). Both were
critical of the FCC rules as not going far
enough. Those rules were the product of
talks with industry stakeholders, many
of whom — including Comcast, the No.
1 U.S. cable operator — signaled that
while they thought the regulations were
unnecessary, they could live with them.
In fact, Comcast agreed to live with them
regardless of whether they were thrown
out by the courts (a pair of wireless providers,
Verizon and MetroPCS, have
already sued the FCC; the FCC asked a
federal court to dismiss those lawsuits
on Friday).

According to Cantwell’s office and
a draft of the bill, it would go beyond
the FCC’s new rules to prevent paid
prioritization (the new regulations
don’t prevent it, though they assume
it is discrimination unless an affirmative
case can be made for it). It would
also address the complaints by Level 3
about peering agreements as de facto
discrimination.

September