Rep. Charles "Chip" Pickering (R-Miss.), who has argued against Net neutrality regulations in the past, is now co-sponsoring the rewritten measure, which is being called the Internet Freedom Preservation Act.
The new Markey-Pickering bill, by contrast, proposes adding four broadband policy statements to existing federal communications law. Those statements build upon a set of broadband policy principles that the Federal Communications Commission adopted years ago, including recommendations that the government allow consumers to reach the lawful content and applications of their choice and hook up whatever devices they please, provided that they don't harm the network.
The bill would direct the FCC to study broadband providers' current practices and whether "enforceable" rules governing Internet openness are necessary. The FCC would also be required to stage at least eight public "broadband summits" at "geographically diverse locations" around the United States to discuss the state of competition, consumer protection, and consumer choice in broadband.
The FCC also announced on Tuesday that it's holding a February 26 public hearing at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Mass., to hear from experts on network management issues.
The U.S. Telecom Association, which represents large Internet service providers like AT&T and Verizon Communications, blasted the new bill. Group president Walter McCormick said it would "blindly legislate a new national broadband policy, without regard to its implications, and then require the FCC to spend the next year determining whether the Internet is being constructed, managed, and operated in conformance with this new government mandate."