Senators Cantwell and Franken introduce bill to revise net neutrality rules

Tuesday, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wa.) introduced a bill called The Internet Freedom, Broadband Promotion, and Consumer Protection act of 2011 on behalf of herself and co-sponsor Senator Al Franken (D-Mn.)

Both Cantwell and Franken have expressed public concern about net neutrality in the wake of the FCC's passage of the Open Internet Order and approval of Comcast's joint content venture with NBC Universal, and this bill seeks to create stronger guidelines for net neutrality.

Specifically, this bill suggests that a new section in Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 be created, based on the FCC's 2009 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in which the commission laid out six core net neutrality principles.

The bill offers an outright prohibition on paid prioritization, a subject which has been a great concern for consumer advocacy groups; and also calls for broadband providers to work with local "middle mile" providers for fair and reasonable network management conditions.

Additionally, the bill (.pdf here) calls for a minimum standard for "just and reasonable" fees, practices, classifications and regulations related to broadband access, so that when any of these are violated by service providers, customers would be able to file a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court or a formal complaint with the FCC.

"Without the strong protections provided by this bill, broadband Internet providers will likely favor their own or affiliated content, service, and applications because they have the economic incentives and technical means to do so," said Senator Cantwell in a statement Tuesday afternoon. "This could lead to a tiered Internet with premium fast lanes and slow lanes for the rest of us. We can't afford to let this happen if our nation is to achieve the important broadband goals put forward in the National Broadband Plan."

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