Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy and California Rep. Doris Matsui intend to unveil a new bill that would require the Federal Communications Commission to do everything in its power to prevent the creation of Internet fast lanes, The Washington Post reports.
If the new law is passed, the FCC will be forced to prohibit Internet service providers (ISPs) from speeding up certain types of Internet traffic at the cost of other types. Advocates of the legislation argue that such practices harm content providers, particularly small start-ups, by forcing them to pay additional fees to ISPs in order to make their content accessible to consumers.
“Our country cannot afford ‘pay-for-play’ schemes that divide our Internet into tiers based on who has the deepest pockets,” Matsui said.
The bill does not grant the FCC any new powers, however, which may be problematic, as the agency has frequently struggled in the past with justifying its regulatory efforts on the Internet before the federal courts.
In order to conform to the bill’s requirements, Tom Wheeler, the agency’s chairman, may be forced to reclassify the Internet as a common carrier service. This act would be highly politically controversial move but would give the FCC greater authority to regulate the Internet as it does telephone lines.
Last month, the FCC voted to approve new net neutrality rules that would allow ISPs to create Internet fast lanes. (RELATED: FCC Votes For New ‘Net Neutrality’ Internet Regulations)
Content providers such as Netflix and Google have strongly opposed the creation of fast lanes, while ISPs such as Verizon and Comcast have defended them. Most recently, Verizon has made the argument that prohibiting fast lanes will prevent blind, deaf and disabled customers from accessing the special services that they need.