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Coffman sides with Democrats, unveils plan to restore net neutrality

Author: Joey Bunch - July 17, 2018 - Updated: July 17, 2018

Mike CoffmanU.S. Rep. Mike Coffman of Aurora speaks at a rally at Heritage High School in 2014. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican from Aurora, took the national stage Tuesday to make a case Democrats have been arguing for months: That rules enforcing online “net neutrality” should be restored.

He backed a Democrat-led effort to use the Congressional Review Act to reverse a Federal Communications Commission decision in December repealing 2015 rules requiring equal treatment of internet traffic, and he introduced his own bill that would write net neutrality into law.

Coffman’s bill, called the 21st Century Internet Act, would restore the major portions net neutrality rules set up by the Obama administration-led FCC in 2015. Primarily, it would prevent broadband providers from giving major companies a huge advantage over small businesses, while limiting the content individual consumers could browse without paying higher rates.

“The fight to keep the internet open belongs in Congress, not at the Federal Communications Commission,” Coffman said in a statement. “The American people deserve to know that their elected officials, not unelected bureaucrats, are fighting for their interest. That fight begins with my bill, which will create an ‘internet constitution’ with the foundational elements of net neutrality.”

National polling has shown support as high as 83 percent for net neutrality. But in the Colorado legislature in April, a Republican-led Senate committee killed state-level consumer protection rules for the internet.

While his legislation probably helps Coffman with moderates in his tough re-election bid in east metro Denver’s 6th Congressional District, it faces a tough road to becoming law with Republicans in charge of the Congress and the White House.

Coffman is the first Republican to join Democrats in seeking a repeal. Democrats have 177 of the 218 members they need to force a floor vote on repealing the FCC’s decision using the Congressional Review Act, according to Politico.

That law lets Congress use an expedited legislative to review new federal regulations issued by government agencies and overrule them via passage of a joint resolution.

Politico reported that the legislation would be tested in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where telecom subcommittee Chairman Marsha Blackburn opposes banning paid prioritization. Rep. Diana DeGette, a Democrat from Coffman’s neighboring district in Denver, sits on that committee.

Coffman was saluted by the left-leaning group Common Cause.

“By signing the discharge petition to restore net neutrality, Congressman Coffman has stood up for a free and open internet,” Caroline Fry, outreach director for Colorado Common Cause, said in a statement. “We applaud him for putting the interests of Coloradans ahead of monopoly cable and telecommunications providers.”

Coloradans overwhelmingly support protecting the free and open internet with strong net neutrality rules. Since the FCC repealed net neutrality protections in December 2017, hundreds of Coloradans have contacted their Congressional delegates to demand that they use their legislative power to overturn the FCC’s ruling.

Coffman unveiled his legislation July 17 in Washington at an event put on by telecom groups INCOMPAS and Engine Advocacy.

According to a fact sheet on the bill provided by Coffman’s office, the bill’s key provisions are:

  • Internet service providers (ISPs) would not be able to block or throttle online content or services.
  • ISPs may not engage in paid prioritization arrangements.
  • ISPs may not charge access fees to edge providers to avoid blocking or throttling.
  • Utilization of content delivery networks would not be considered a form of prioritization.
  • Dedicated network access for businesses would be unaffected, but such services may not be used to evade the net neutrality protections.
  • ISPs still would be allowed to do reasonable network management activities to make sure internet traffic flows effectively across their network.
  • ISPs would be restricted from “unfair or deceptive acts or practices,” giving the FCC rules to investigate those practices.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.