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Patrick L.
Democrat VT

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  • Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

    by Senator Patrick J. Leahy

    Posted on 2015-01-07

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    LEAHY (for himself, Mr. Franken, Mr. Sanders, Mr. Whitehouse, and Mr. Heinrich): S. 40. A bill to direct the Federal Communications Commission to promulgate regulations that prohibit certain preferential treatment or prioritization of Internet traffic; to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

    Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, for nearly a year now, Americans across the country have made their voices heard on the critical issue of how we protect an open Internet. Their message has been loud and clear--they want meaningful rules that protect the Internet as a platform for free expression and innovation. Consumers want to see the online space as we have always known it, as a place where the best ideas and services can reach users on merit rather than based on a financial relationship with a broadband provider. Last Congress I joined with my friend in the House, Representative Doris Matsui of California, to introduce bicameral legislation requiring the Federal Communications Commission, FCC, to ban ``pay-to-play'' deals on the Internet. Today, I am pleased to once again join with her to reintroduce this important bill.

    When we originally introduced this legislation last June, nearly 300,000 Americans had commented on FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's open Internet proposal. That number alone would have been an impressive level of public engagement. Since that time, however, the number of public comments filed at the FCC has swelled to nearly 4 million. As the comments show, consumers are concerned that without meaningful rules the Internet will become a place where broadband providers charge tolls to websites or applications for them to reach end users. This would represent a fundamental departure from the way in which consumers and entrepreneurs interact with the Internet. A two-tiered Internet based on ability to pay would harm the innovative and competitive environment we have all come to expect in the online world.

    Like an overwhelming number of the public, I have grave concerns that a pay-to-play Internet would allow larger companies to squeeze out their competitors, stifling competition online. A small web company in Vermont that develops an idea to rival the largest Silicon Valley titans should not have to worry that its access to consumers could be blocked because its competitors have a paid arrangement with broadband providers. The next generation of Internet companies and retailers should have the same protections that allowed a company like the Vermont Country Store to become a thriving online success.

    Pay-to-play arrangements would also harm consumers, who would not have the assurance that the service they are paying for will provide the speed that they want. Too many Americans currently lack real choice in broadband providers, particularly those in rural areas. A pay-to- play Internet could result in whole swaths of the Internet becoming functionally inaccessible to the customers of certain Internet providers. This is not the Internet we know today, and the FCC or Congress must act to ensure that it does not come to pass.

    The Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act is straightforward. It requires the FCC to establish rules preventing providers from charging websites for priority access. It also requires rules to prevent providers from prioritizing their own affiliated content or services. These are simple rules to preserve the equal platform we know online today.

    This legislation should not be used by opponents of meaningful open Internet rules to undermine the FCC's important work to craft open Internet rules that will protect consumers and innovators. To the contrary, this bill sets out important policy positions that the FCC should adopt in its current consideration of open Internet rules. The FCC should not hesitate to act at its February meeting to ban these deals outright.

    The importance of an open Internet is an issue that resonates in homes and businesses across the country. I spent significant time last year listening to voices outside of Washington, particularly those of Vermonters, so that I could hear firsthand about the impact the Internet has had on small businesses and consumers. The Judiciary Committee held two hearings on this issue, including one in Vermont, where I heard exactly these kinds of stories. These are not people looking for a handout or special treatment--these are entrepreneurs and consumers who simply want the Internet to remain an equalizing tool regardless of where you live or how deep your pockets are.

    There should be widespread agreement to prevent special deals that harm consumers and dampen online innovation. The FCC and Congress should rightly focus on this timely and significant issue to protect innovation and competition online.

    Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

    There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows: S. 40 Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the ``Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act of 2015''.


    (a) In General.--Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Commission shall promulgate regulations that-- (1) prohibit a broadband provider from entering into an agreement with an edge provider under which the broadband provider agrees, for consideration, in transmitting network traffic over the broadband Internet access service of an end user, to give preferential treatment or priority to the traffic of such edge provider over the traffic of other edge providers; and (2) prohibit a broadband provider, in transmitting network traffic over the broadband Internet access service of an end user, from giving preferential treatment or priority to the traffic of content, applications, services, or devices that are provided or operated by such broadband provider, or an affiliate of such broadband provider, over the traffic of other content, applications, services, or devices.

    (b) Rules of Construction.-- (1) Certain traffic not affected.--Nothing in this section shall be construed as superseding any obligation or authorization a broadband provider may have to address the needs of emergency communications or law enforcement, public safety, or national security authorities, consistent with or as permitted by applicable law, or as limiting the ability of the provider to do so.

    (2) Clarification of authority.--Nothing in this section shall be construed as limiting the authority of the Commission under any other provision of law, including the authority to promulgate regulations prohibiting or limiting preferential treatment or prioritization of the traffic of an edge provider by a broadband provider under GN Docket No. 14- 28 (relating to the matter of protecting and promoting the open Internet).

    (c) Enforcement.--For purposes of sections 503(b) and 504 of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 503(b); 504), this section shall be considered to be a part of such Act. With respect to enforcement under this section only, the following modifications of such section 503(b) shall apply: [[Page S61]] (1) Paragraph (5) shall not apply.

    (2) Paragraph (6) shall be applied by substituting the following: ``No forfeiture penalty shall be determined or imposed against any person under this subsection if the violation charged occurred more than 3 years prior to the date of issuance of the required notice or notice of apparent liability.''.

    (d) Definitions.--In this section: (1) Affiliate.--The term ``affiliate'' has the meaning given such term in section 3 of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 153).

    (2) Broadband internet access service.--The term ``broadband Internet access service'' has the meaning given such term in section 8.11 of title 47, Code of Federal Regulations.

    (3) Broadband provider.--The term ``broadband provider'' means a provider of broadband Internet access service.

    (4) Commission.--The term ``Commission'' means the Federal Communications Commission.

    (5) Edge provider.--The term ``edge provider'' means an individual, institution, or other entity that provides-- (A) any content, application, or service over the Internet; or (B) a device used for accessing any content, application, or service over the Internet.

    (6) End user.--The term ``end user'' means an individual, institution, or other entity that uses a broadband Internet access service.

    ______ By Mrs. FEINSTEIN: S. 81. A bill to authorize preferential treatment for certain imports from Nepal, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Finance.

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