By Clayola Brown
A bipartisan internet reform effort could also include — at long last — a legislative solution on net neutrality. Contrary to the conventional wisdom on the issue, support for net neutrality cuts across party lines. The basic idea that broadband providers and gatekeeper platforms shouldn’t be able to block, throttle or unfairly discriminate against any lawful content isn’t actually that controversial; it’s broadly popular among both Democratic and Republican voters and is supported by just about every lobbying group in Washington.
Where the recent FCC battles on net neutrality kept running into landmines was on the wonkier question of whether the entire internet should be regulated under outdated 80-year-old utility laws — a framework notorious for sclerosis — or under the more modern, innovation-friendly “information services” rules specifically created for online providers in 1996.
Let’s be honest: Voters want net neutrality protections restored, and if Congress can deliver a bill that permanently protects this right, they generally don’t care one bit about which title of the Federal Communications Act the protections are under. Re-embracing the bipartisan, Clinton-era light-touch “information services” framework is Democrats’ only option for a bill that might actually pass. The fact that it’s actually the better policy choice should matter for something, too.
Should Democrats retake the House next year, this kind of comprehensive internet reform package will offer the rare opportunity for a bipartisan legislative win. And in addition to the substantive victory, it’s also good politics — a reminder to voters why a more expansive vision of pragmatic, effective government isn’t so far-fetched after all.