U.S. House Democrats will continue to move fast this week on legislation aimed at restoring net neutrality protections introduced earlier this month.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will host an open markup on March 26 to consider the Save the Internet Act, a bill that would restore the U.S. Federal Communications Commission's Open Internet Order of 2015, which classified broadband as a Title II telecommunications service and gave the FCC more authority to regulate broadband service providers.
The order also prohibited broadband service providers from blocking or throttling legal internet traffic, or prioritizing specific traffic in exchange for payment.
The Open Internet Order was repealed by the Republican-led FCC in a 2018 order, which reclassified broadband as a Title I information service.
"The Save the Internet Act restores critical net neutrality protections and puts a cop back on the beat at the FCC to defend consumers against abusive and discriminatory practices by internet service providers," said Reps. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., chairman of the full House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Mike Doyle, D-Pa., chairman of the subcommittee hosting the markup.
House Democrats have acted fast since the bill, which has only Democratic co-sponsors, was unveiled March 6 by Democratic leadership.
House Republicans have encouraged Democrats to work with them on a narrower bipartisan bill that restores prohibitions on blocking or throttling of legal internet traffic or prioritizing specific traffic in exchange for payment. The top Republican on the full committee, Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, has suggested that "heavy-handed, one-size-fits-all regulations" such as Title II hurt small internet service providers.
While long-time net neutrality advocates, such as Public Knowledge and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, have welcomed the bill and encouraged its adoption, ACA - America's Communications Association, a trade group representing over 700 small and midsize independent companies that provide broadband, phone and video services, warned that the Title II classification could deter providers from investing in broadband networks.
If the bill is reported out of the subcommittee, it will be sent to the full committee for consideration.
On the Senate side, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee's Subcommittee on Manufacturing, Trade and Consumer Protection will hold a hearing on small-business perspectives on a federal data privacy framework March 26. Witnesses will include Justin Brookman, director of consumer privacy and technology policy for Consumer Reports, and Nina Dosanjh, technology policy committee vice chair for the National Association of Realtors.
Both chambers of Congress have been assessing a possible federal privacy framework in the wake of privacy scandals at large tech companies, such as Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.'s Google LLC, and the implementation of a broad new privacy law in the European Union known as the General Data Protection Regulation. California has also passed a privacy law that is set to take effect in 2020.
When the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee held a hearing on Feb. 27 about a possible federal privacy framework, many industry-affiliated witnesses called for a federal privacy law that pre-empts state laws. Senate Democrats pushed back on the calls at that hearing to focus on pre-emption, saying the focus should be on ensuring the strongest consumer protections.
The chairman of the committee, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., said at the Feb. 27 hearing that a federal privacy framework "must be done in a manner that provides for continued investment and innovation, and with the flexibility for U.S. businesses to compete domestically and abroad."
While both the House and Senate have held hearings on a possible privacy framework, the Senate is thought to be further along with a better grasp on the issues as it has had a bipartisan group on privacy working on the issue since last Congress.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission will host a hearing titled "The FTC's Role in a Changing World."
The House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will hold a markup of H.R. 1644, the Save the Internet Act.
The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee's Subcommittee on Manufacturing, Trade and Consumer Protection will host a hearing titled "Small Business Perspectives on a Federal Data Privacy Framework
|Industry, legal and think tank events
|The Federal Communications Bar Association will host a lunch titled "Internet of Things and Wireless Telecommunications Committees Brown Bag Lunch" in Washington, D.C.
|The law firm Davis Wright Tremaine LLP will host a discussion on legal issues in artificial intelligence in New York.
|The Free State Foundation, a Maryland-based think tank that promotes free markets, will host its annual telecom policy conference in Washington, D.C.
|The Hudson Institute, an economic think tank, will host a discussion on how the U.S. can maintain a competitive edge in 5G technology in Washington, D.C.
|Access Now, an internet policy advocacy group, will host a data privacy summit in Washington, D.C. Federal Trade Commissioner Rohit Chopra is expected to deliver a keynote.
|The Federal Communications Bar Association will host a lunch titled "Homeland Security and Emergency Communications Committee Brown Bag Lunch" in Arlington, Va.
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