Eshoo Will Offer ‘Net Neutrality’ Bill If FCC Rules are Overturned by Court

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By Paul Barbagallo  

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Communications and Technology Subcommittee, said Jan. 22 that she would introduce a “net neutrality” bill if the Federal Communications Commission's Open Internet rules are overturned in federal court.

In a keynote speech at the State of the Net Conference, Eshoo reiterated her support for the rules, which are intended to prevent internet service providers from interfering with web traffic or charging specific websites to deliver their content more quickly, a concept commonly known as net neutrality.

Verizon Communications Inc. is challenging the FCC's rules on statutory and constitutional grounds in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (Verizon Communications Inc. v. Federal Communications Commission, D.C. Cir., No. 11-1355, 9/30/11). The court has yet to schedule oral argument in the case, but a ruling is expected sometime this summer.

“Consumer protection should be one of the basic tenets of any telecommunications policy or regulation,” Eshoo said in her remarks. “First and foremost this means preserving the basic 'rules of the road’ that the FCC adopted to ensure a free and open internet. Should the court overturn the FCC's rules, I will be prepared to introduce legislation clarifying the commission's authority to ensure a free and open internet, while preventing the use of internet 'fast lanes' or other discriminatory tools.”

One fear of the Eshoo and net-neutrality advocates is that Verizon and other owners of the internet pipes will create a priority zone, or fast lane, for their own content and the services of companies that pay them a premium.

If the court rules for Verizon in the case, the chances of legislation passing are slim.

Republicans are vehemently opposed to the FCC's Open Internet rules, and they have tried on several occasions to repeal them legislatively.

The Open Internet rules enjoy broad support from technology businesses in Silicon Valley, which is located in Eshoo's congressional district.