Democrats Unveil ‘Save the Internet’ Act to Revive Net Neutrality

Since the Donald Trump-controlled Federal Communications Commission voted in December 2017 to toss out the 2015 net neutrality rules put in place under the Barack Obama administration—the rules were actually repealed last June—Democrats in Congress and in state legislatures have been attempting to pass new laws restoring the open internet rules.

On Wednesday, congressional Democrats took their most dramatic step so far toward putting the Obama-era rules back in place, unveiling a new bill titled the “Save the Internet Act of 2019,” which would do exactly that. 

Under the Obama-era rules, internet service providers such as Verizon, Comcast, AT&T and other giant telecom corporations were required to handle all online traffic equally, and were not allowed to favor certain sites and discriminate against others, slowing or blocking sites that either don’t pay a premium fee, or simply fall out of favor for some reason. Porn sites, for those reasons, would be especially vulnerable to “throttling” or blocking.

"This legislation brings the power of the internet to every corner of this country, from rural America and to our cities," Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Wednesday. "A free and open internet is a pillar in creating opportunities."

But Tina Pelkey, a spokesperson for Trump-appointed FCC Chair Ajit Pai, said that the Democratic bill would reimpose “heavy-handed regulation from the 1930s,” a reference to the Communications Act of 1934, which created the framework under which the telecom industry is regulated today—but which has been updated or modified several times since, most recently in 1996.  

The new Democratic bill would restore net neutrality rules to where they were “as in effect January 19, 2017,” one day before Trump took office, the bill’s text states. 

Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, a sponsor of the Senate version of the “Save the Internet Act,” said that the debate over net neutrality was really a “free speech” issue.

"Another way of saying net neutrality is saying nondiscrimination against the smallest companies, against the smallest voices within our society," Markey said on Wednesday. "We are standing and fighting for them here today, and we will not stop till we win."

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