Feb 8, 2019

New Congress, same net neutrality debate

Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP/Getty Images

Members of Congress who say they want to reach a compromise on net neutrality seemed no closer than ever to actually striking a deal, as they rehashed old arguments at a Thursday hearing on the issue.

Why it matters: More internet service providers are also big content producers now, exemplified in AT&T's purchase of Time Warner. That's the kind of power net neutrality rules are aimed at reining in.

What they're saying:

  • Republicans say they want reach a deal to codify net neutrality rules into law, but that they refuse to do so if it returns to the utility-style "common carrier" regime the FCC repealed last year. They've introduced three bills — some inspired by what they say were Democratic proposals — to push their Democratic colleagues to the table.
  • "Our point is, do you want this as a political issue or are you serious about legislating?" said Rep. Greg Walden (Ore.), the top Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee, which hosted the hearing.
  • Democrats say they want tough rules and defend the utility-style regulations.
  • "The interesting thing is that saying, 'I am for an open internet, I'm just not for the common carrier rules,' is kind of like saying, 'I'm for justice, just not for the courts overseeing it,'" said former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, who produced the utility-style rules.

Our thought bubble: Privacy has partly supplanted net neutrality as the major tech issue on Capitol Hill. That didn't stop people from packing the hearing room on Thursday.

The bottom line: People on all sides of the net neutrality question have said for years that they want a compromise but the devil is in the details. So far, there's still a lot of daylight between them.

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Coronavirus dashboard

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  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2:30 p.m. ET: 826,222 — Total deaths: 40,708 — Total recoveries: 174,115.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in confirmed cases. Total confirmed cases as of 2:30 p.m. ET: 174,467 — Total deaths: 3,416— Total recoveries: 6,000.
  3. Public health updates: Older adults and people with other health conditions are more at risk, new data shows — FDA authorizes two-minute antibody test kit to detect coronavirus.
  4. Federal government latest: NIAID director Anthony Fauci said the White House coronavirus task force will hold an "active discussion" about broadening the use of medical masks to protect against coronavirus.
  5. In Congress: New York Rep. Max Rose deploys to National Guard to help coronavirus response.
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Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

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Why it matters: Access to testing has improved in the U.S. thanks to commercial labs, but the average wait time for a patient's results is four to five days — with some reports of it taking more than a week.

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