Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) said that restoring net neutrality rules “has to be at the top of our agenda” and that he hopes that the rules will “quickly” be restored either through Congress or through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The Massachusetts senator made the remarks at the INCOMPAS Policy Summit on Monday afternoon. With President Joe Biden winning the election, and Democrats taking control of the Senate, it has been expected that restoring net neutrality would happen through some mechanism.
Markey, a long-time vocal supporter of net neutrality, seemed optimistic that would be the case. Specifically, the senator was asked whether he thought it was possible for a "permeant solution" for net neutrality to be worked on in this Congress.
"The ultimate lasting solution has to be the right solution to protect online innovation and activism and maintain the internet as we know it," Markey said. "In order to preserve the free and open personality of the internet, we need strong enforceable net neutrality rules and clear FCC authority over broadband access. In the short run, whether it's by enacting my Save the Internet Act, or by action at the FCC, we need to just quickly give authority over broadband back to the commission and reinstate strong prohibitions on blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization. And we need to just reverse the wrongheaded decisions of the Trump Federal Communications Commission. That's what I'm going to be working to advance."
Markey introduced the Senate version of the Save the Internet Act in 2019. The bill would have codified the FCC's 2015 Open Internet Order that enshrined net neutrality. While the Save the Internet Act passed in the House of Representatives, it was never brought up for a vote by the Republican-controlled Senate despite several attempts by Democrats to force one.
On the FCC side of things, Biden has begun to face pressure to fill out the agency quickly. The agency currently only has four members, with Biden having the ability to appoint one more person to it, either as a commissioner, or someone who would ultimately become the chair.
Biden named Democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, another strong advocate for restoring net neutrality rules, the acting chairwoman last month.
If Biden appoints that final member to fill out the agency, it would be able to restore net neutrality by having the necessary party-line votes.
Meanwhile, the possibility of a bill moving through Congress is unclear. While there does seem to be movement on a potential bill, it remains to be seen whether it would get the needed votes to pass. While some Republicans have crossed party lines to vote in favor of net neutrality issues in the past, it's not guaranteed they would do the same again.
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*First Published: Feb 8, 2021, 4:30 pm