Lawmakers craft net neutrality bill as election looms

Lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are working to draft net neutrality legislation ahead of the November elections, according to separate reports. However, any bill that emerges from the discussions likely will steer clear of the most contentious issues surrounding the debate, including whether to apply net neutrality regulations to wireless networks.

The next few days will decide if any legislation emerges from the committee, according to reports in the Washington Post and Broadcasting & Cable. The legislation being considered would give the FCC authority to enforce its current four net neutrality principles, but would not give it authority to apply nondiscrimination rules for Internet content, the reports said. Lawmakers in the discussions also are having a difficult time deciding whether wireless networks will be included and whether there will be exemptions for network management, which are among the core differences between supporters and opponents of net neutrality.  

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has said he would welcome a legislative compromise in the debate, and telcos and wireless carriers are hoping to avoid an effort by the FCC to reclassify broadband as a Title II common-carrier service, which would give it cleaner legal authority to put net neutrality regulations in place.

In late August the commission opened up to public comment on two of the thorniest issues surrounding the debate: whether and how the rules should be applied to wireless networks, and how to treat "specialized" services.

In recent days, net neutrality advocates launched an online advertising campaign to get Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to disavow the policy proposal on net neutrality Google announced in August with Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ). The policy framework forbids any kind of prioritization--including paid prioritization--of Internet traffic over wired networks. However, those rules would not apply to wireless networks, an exemption that has been criticized by public interest groups and other companies, including Facebook and Amazon. The proposal also said that certain advanced online services, such as telemedicine and smart grids, should not be covered by net neutrality regulations, which critics argue could lead to a two-tiered Internet.

For more:
- see this Washington Post article
- see this Broadcasting & Cable article
- see this Wall Street Journal article (sub. req.)

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