House To Debate Internet Freedom Bill

Would Codify Multistakeholder Governance Model as Official U.S. Policy

The House is expected late Tuesday to debate H.R. 1580, the Internet Freedom Bill, which has the backing of both the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House Communications Subcommittee. It will be brought up without amendments and is expected to pass after Republicans agreed to modify it slightly over Democrat concerns it could undercut the FCC's regulatory authority.

The bill would codify a congressional resolution passed last year championing a multistakeholder model of Internet governance.

The bill passed out of the full committee with bipartisan support last month, after Republicans agreed to excise language in the bill -- making it U.S. policy “to promote a global Internet free from government control" -- that the Dems thought could threaten the FCC's ability to enforce network neutrality rules.

In his floor statement, a copy of which was supplied to Multichannel News, bill backer Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the House Communications Subcommittee, reiterated that the policy statement to that effect would not have created any statutory responsibilities. Walden, who agreed to drop the phrase, opposes the net neutrality rules, which are currently under court review.

The bill is designed to help combat efforts by China, Russia, Arab states and others to create a more top-down international model of Internet governance, a battle on which Republicans and Democrats are squarely on the same side.

"Passing H.R. 1580 will show we are united against efforts by authoritarian nations to exert their grip on the Internet," he plans to tell his colleagues on the House floor. "For the sake of the Internet and the social and economic  freedom it brings, I urge my colleagues to vote for the bill."