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Democrats pitch long-shot bid for FCC ban on prioritization deals

Legislation would force net neutrality by banning paid speed-ups

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A group of Democrats in Congress have drafted a bill to bar the FCC from allowing "fast lane" prioritization deals.

Dubbed the "Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act," the legislation would call on the FCC to ban carriers from making the paid prioritization deals in which content providers pay service providers to receive better connection speeds. Additionally, the bill would block service providers from prioritizing their own services.

"Americans are speaking loud and clear – they want an internet that is a platform for free expression and innovation, where the best ideas and services can reach consumers based on merit rather than based on a financial relationship with a broadband provider," Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said when announcing the bill.

"The Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act would protect consumers and support a free and open internet," Leahy said.

The bill is being presented in the Senate and House by Leahy and congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA), and is being cosponsored by senator Al Franken (D-MN), congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA), and congresswoman Anna Eshoo(D-CA).

The bill will face an uphill battle getting through both houses of Congress and advancing to the president. The Washington Post cited an unnamed congressional aide when reporting that the bill was "unlikely" to win over Republican cosponsors, further damaging its chances of passing in the Republican-controlled House.

The effort is not the first move by Congress to take the decision on net neutrality out of the hands of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. Last month, a Republican congressman sought to strip the commission of its ability to reclassify internet service as a "common carrier" platform, a last resort that the FCC is using as leverage in setting net neutrality provisions.

Meanwhile, the FCC is continuing with its own plans to establish a net neutrality framework. While Wheeler has vowed to strike down deals that would offer paid prioritization, the FCC boss has left the door open for "fast lane" deals to offer improved speeds on some services. ®

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