The battle over net neutrality is heating up again – as supporters in Congress have just introduced a bill to reinstate Obama-era consumer protections that were lost after the Federal Communications Commission repealed them in 2017.
The “Save the Internet Act” would bring back rules that prevent Internet Service Providers from slowing down or blocking content they don’t like, or offering an internet “fast lane” to certain sites or users at a higher price.
Laila Abdelaziz, a campaigner with the nonprofit “Fight for the Future,” says the feds need to make sure the internet remains an even playing field. “Handing over that power to this handful of corporations is what the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality does,” says Abdelaziz. “This is very antithetical to the openness of the internet that is driving business and free speech, and connectivity and community in the 21st century.”
The bill is expected to pass the U.S. House, but its future is unclear in the Senate. FCC Chairman Agit Pai has argued that net neutrality stifles innovation and investment and would drive up consumer prices. A bill last year to bring net neutrality rules to Missouri never made it out of committee in the state legislature. Last year, a poll from the University of Maryland found that 86 percent of Americans opposed repealing net neutrality, including 82 percent of Republicans and 90 percent of Democrats.
Internet Service Providers have promised not to favor or block any websites, although the current law permits it. Abdelaziz thinks the internet giants will hold off until the dust settles. “They’ve been on their best behavior because they recognize that this is long from over,” says Abdelaziz. “They have not won yet, and I think it’ll continue to be the case especially while they are in court.”
A large group of tech companies, joined by more than 20 states, is suing the FCC to bring back net neutrality. Lawyers made their opening arguments in those cases in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals last month.