There may be little chance of passage given that the House is moving in the opposite direction - to strip the FCC of authority to enforce its new net neutrality rules - but Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington has introduced a bill that would improve the FCC rules, by requiring that mobile broadband be part of the open internet.
The FCC rules, you may recall, largely exempted mobile broadband from its net neutrality rules. In essence, the FCC signed off on the carveouts for mobile broadband that had been proposed by Google and Verizon.
By negative implication, the FCC's rules say mobile broadband providers are permitted to:
- block content;
- block applications;
- block services;
- block non-harmful devices; and
- prioritize traffic in a discriminatory fashion.
Senator Cantwell's bill would stop all of the above. Her proposed "no blocking" and "no discrimination" rules are more expansive than the FCC's and would apply equally to fixed wireline and mobile broadband providers.
If you think that mobile is the future of the internet, then applying neutrality principles to mobile broadband is at least as important or even more important than applying them to fixed wireline providers.
Here is pertinent language from Senator Cantwell's bill:
"A broadband Internet access service provider may not unjustly or unreasonably--
(1) block, interfere with, or degrade an end user's ability to access, use, send, post, receive, or offer lawful content (including fair use), applications, or services of the user's choice;
(2) block, interfere with, or degrade an end user's ability to connect and use the end user's choice of legal devices that do not harm the network;
(3) prevent or interfere with competition among network, applications, service or content providers;
(4) engage in discrimination against any lawful Internet content, application, service, or service provider with respect to network management practices, network performance characteristics, or commercial terms and conditions;
(5) give preference to affiliated content, applications, or services with respect to network management practices, network performance characteristics, or commercial terms and conditions;
(6) charge a content, application, or service provider for access to the broadband Internet access service providers' end users based on differing levels of quality of service or prioritized delivery of Internet protocol packets;
(7) prioritize among or between content, applications, and services, or among or between different types of content, applications, and services unless the end user requests to have such prioritization;
(8) install or utilize network features, functions, or capabilities that prevent or interfere with compliance with the requirements of this section; or
(9) refuse to interconnect on just and reasonable terms and conditions."
The bill's definition of "broadband Internet access service provider," to be subject to the rules above, is "a person or entity that operates or resells and controls any facility used to provide an Internet access service directly to the public, whether provided for a fee or for free, and whether provided via wire or radio . . . ."
Senator Cantwell's bill also takes more care than the FCC rules do to define what "reasonable network managment" is. This concept is important because it speaks to exceptions to the rules that are necessary for the sake of permitting providers to maintain and operate their networks.
The bill also would grant private rights of action and contemplate action by state attorneys general, but let's not get distracted by those provisions. Again, the bill is not likely to pass the current Congress. But as a proactive statement that fills in what's missing from the FCC's half-loaf of net neutrality, Senator Cantwell's bill is a clarion call.
Image by tellumo.