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Broadband Roundup: Senate Announces Hearings on Open Internet, While House Democratcs Urge FCC to Regulate Broadband, and Popular Web Sites Protest ‘Slow Lanes’

in Net Neutrality by

WASHINGTON, September 10, 2014 – The Senate Judiciary Committee announced that it had scheduled a hearing next Wednesday on the best means to protect an open internet. Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said he saw the hearing as an opportunity to hear testimony about his views regarding importance of a free and open internet.

Leahy and Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Calif., each sponsored legislation dubbed the “Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act” in their respective chambers, S. 2476 and H.R. 4880. Their bills would direct the Federal Communications Commission to ban “certain preferential treatment or prioritization of internet traffic.”

“Open Internet rules are the Bill of Rights for the online world,” Leahy said in a statement. “It is crucial that rules are put in place to protect consumers, online innovators, and free speech. Next week’s hearing will build on the discussion the committee started in Vermont. I look forward to hearing from a wide range of stakeholders who can speak firsthand about the impact the FCC’s decision will have on the Internet landscape.”

Significantly, S. 2476 aims to promote open internet approaches without requiring public utility regulation under Title II of the Communications Act.

Popular Websites Stage Online Protest 

On Wednesday, many internet users will come across spinning-wheel icons on their favorite websites.

Organized by activist groups Demand Progress and Fight for the Future, websites such as Reddit, Kickstarter, Vimeo, Foursquare and WordPress are attempting to simulate for their visitors what they believe would be a potential consequence unless stricter net neutrality rules are put in place than those proposed by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in May.

The spinning site-loading icon is only symbolic in nature, as the web sites won’t actually slow their load times. Instead, sites such as BitTorrent, Etsy, Digg, Urban Dictionary, and Netflix will urge their visitors to contact their US policymakers in support of strong net neutrality rules, according to Techhive.

IDG News Service chronicles how this slow lane protest came to be supported by advocacy groups such as the ACLU, the EFF, Engine Advocacy, the Free Press Action Fund, and Common Cause. It comes less than a week prior to the deadline for second-round comments in the FCC’s net neutrality proceedings.

Pelosi Wants Broadband Reclassified 

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. wrote a letter on Tuesday to Wheeler describing her concern that FCC’s current position may lead to discrimination and prioritization of certain online content.

Pelosi referenced January’s D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Verizon v. FCC. Although the ruling upheld the FCC’s authority under which it might use Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 as a basis for Wheeler’s current approach, Pelosi said that “the FCC should follow the court’s guidance and reclassify broadband as a Telecommunications Service under Title II of the Communications Act.”

Wheeler’s Remarks at CTIA 

Wheeler spoke to the wireless industry association CTIA on Tuesday at the group’s conference in Las Vegas. Wheeler cited the FCC’s blocking of AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile, as well as his opposition of Sprint’s recent attempt to acquire T-Mobile, as examples of the agency’s street-credibility with broadband voters.

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