Attempt at Compromise Neutrality Bill Stalls

For the last month, House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman has worked tirelessly with carriers, Internet companies, and public interest groups to craft a legislative approach to preserve the open Internet. CDT applauds Chairman Waxman and his staff for recognizing that action is needed, and for the time and energy invested in developing a bill. Unfortunately, that bill’s progress has stalled in a highly polarized Congress. Now that it is clear that a compromise bill on this issue will not move forward — even when offered as a time-limited, stopgap measure — the ball is once again squarely in the FCC’s court.

As CDT has said before, the current legal limbo regarding the FCC’s role in safeguarding Internet openness is unsustainable. Waxman’s bill aimed to offer an interim step toward ensuring that the Internet remains an open and neutral platform. The bill’s safeguards would have been incomplete – but they also would have represented significant forward progress from the status quo.

The FCC should now reassert leadership on this issue by adopting the "third way" approach it suggested in its Notice of Inquiry in June. (CDT’s comments in that proceeding are here.) Nothing in Congress’s failure to move Chairman Waxman’s bill should suggest that action to preserve the open Internet is not warranted, or that the FCC was off track. Waxman himself expressed support for the Commission’s “third way” in his statement on his effort. Indeed, efforts to pass a bill would not have been necessary if the agency had continued down the path of addressing this crucial issue under its existing statutory authority.

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