Today, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) said he would “soon” introduce a bill to permanently reinstate the net neutrality rules that were repealed by the Federal Communications Commission, led by chairman Ajit Pai, in 2017.
Markey’s announcement comes as a federal court is set to hear oral arguments over the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality regulations in 2017. Markey, who is a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, has previously introduced a bill that would permanently reinstate net neutrality as a member of the House of Representatives, although the measure ultimately failed.
It’s unclear when the bill would be formally introduced, but Markey said it was imminent. “We will soon lay down a legislative marker in the Senate in support of net neutrality to show the American people that we are on their side in overwhelming supporting a free and open internet.”
A spokesperson for Markey confirmed to The Verge that the measure is a bill that would codify net neutrality rules into law.
There have been other congressional efforts to undo the FCC’s rollback, but all have failed to conjure up the necessary votes to codify net neutrality rules. Earlier this year, Senate Democrats pushed through a Congressional Review Act measure that was aimed at reversing the commission’s repeal, but the House of Representatives failed to collect enough signatures for the bill to be brought to the floor for a vote.
As a result of the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats now hold a majority in the House and would likely be able to easily approve a net neutrality measure this session. However, Senate Democrats could face tougher waters, as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) may refuse to take the bill to the floor. Then, another discharge petition would be required to bring it up for a vote to bypass McConnell.
“Whether in the halls of the courts or the halls of Congress, we will fight to defend net neutrality,” Markey said in a statement today. “Nothing less than the fate of the internet is being argued in this court case, and we must do everything we can in this historic fight.”
Industry groups like the Internet Association (IA) also back Congress’ efforts to permanently codify net neutrality. In a statement today, IA said, “The internet industry stands with consumers in this fight. . . Internet Association and our member companies are as committed as ever to ensuring all Americans enjoy strong, enforceable net neutrality protections, whether it be through the courts or bipartisan legislation.”
In August, Markey, along with Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), led a bicameral effort along over 100 members in Congress in filing an amicus brief in the net neutrality case being heard today, condemning the FCC’s move to repeal net neutrality.
“Both the plain language and Congressional intent behind the Telecommunications Act of 1996 make clear that today, broadband access to the internet is a telecommunications service,” Markey said in a statement. “Yet Chairman Pai and President Trump ignored the statute and Congress’s intent when the FCC reclassified broadband back to an information service and eviscerated the net neutrality rules.”
“They are on the wrong side of history, and I believe the court will find in our favor.”