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senate Bill S. 40

Online Equality: Should For-Pay Internet "Fast Lanes" Be Banned?

Argument in favor

Paid prioritization will fundamentally change how the Internet works. All Internet traffic should be treated equally, not based on how much an online organization can pay.

BarackObama's Opinion
"An open Internet is essential to the American economy, and increasingly to our very way of life... We cannot allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas."
Like (87)
pantera's Opinion
This is a no-brainer. The power of the Internet is in being an even and open playing field for communication.
Like (17)
sofiavotes's Opinion
We need to support net neutrality. Allowing fast lanes on the Internet would only benefit Internet providers.
Like (14)

Argument opposed

The government shouldn't be able to dictate how broadband providers offer services. Putting restrictions on operations will harm the future of innovation and investment in broadband.

The government needs to step out of regulating the Internet. Don't fix something that's not broken.
Like (7)
Christopher's Opinion
What part of net neutrality are you not getting?. How about we improve the internet infrastructure instead of fighting over the crumbs?
Like (1)
Edward's Opinion
This action by the FCC yesterday frightens me more than Obamacare and Immigration. The internet is the last stronghold of freedom of speech left uncontrolled by Federal Government. Congress must act to overturn this.
Like (1)

What is Senate Bill S. 40?

This bill would ban the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from allowing fast lanes on the Internet — essentially supporting net neutrality.

This bill would direct the FCC to ban Internet providers from speeding up some content (like online videos) at the expense of others (like e-mail). This is known as a "two-tiered" system that allows internet providers — like Comcast and Verizon — to charge companies to offer their content to internet users more quickly, i.e. in the fast lane. If you can't pay, you and your content ends up in the slow lane.

If you're having trouble visualizing this, take Netflix for example. As a huge company, they could afford to pay a premium to stream your favorite shows faster. A smaller online video service might not have the funds to pay the "fast lane" rate, and would end up offering it's consumers a much slower streaming experience. This is a direct threat to net neutrality. What is net neutrality? As John Oliver, TV personality and comedian explains:

"Essentially it means that all data has to be treated equally, no matter who created it. It's why the internet is a weirdly leveled playing field."
The bill doesn't offer the FCC new powers, but the bill — known as the Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act — would offer the commission the authority to create regulations that prohibit broadband providers from:
  • Signing an agreement with an internet company or online creator of content/applications/services/access devices offering preferential treatment or a promise of priority to online traffic.
  •  Offering preferential treatment or priority to content, applications, services, or devices that are created or operated by those broadband providers and their affiliates. 
This legislation also limits itself by prohibiting its own guidelines from getting in the way of a broadband provider's obligation to address the needs of emergency communications, law enforcement, public safety, or national security.


Everyone on the Internet, broadband providers, the FCC, and the Communications Act of 1934.

Cost of Senate Bill S. 40

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information


Though it failed in the previous Congress, sponsoring Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) noted of his bill:

“Americans are speaking loud and clear – they want an Internet that is a platform for free expression and innovation, where the best ideas and services can reach consumers based on merit rather than based on a financial relationship with a broadband provider.”

There are growing questions of how effective this bill could be since the bill directs the FCC to work within its current authority:

"An ongoing debate at the FCC is whether it's legally able to ban traffic discrimination at all. Under the current proposal, the FCC would tacitly allow commercial speed agreements but then review problematic ones on a case-by-case basis, rather than lay down a blanket restriction against what's called 'paid priortization.'

Consumer advocates have suggested instead that the FCC reclassify broadband as a utility — a decision that would subject ISPs to greater regulation. But broadband companies have said that even that would not guarantee a prioritization ban's survival, because of a loophole in the law that allows for some traffic discrimination so long as it isn't 'unjust' or 'unreasonable.'"

Regardless of what decisions end up coming out of the FCC, net neutrality has proven to divide lawmakers along party lines.


(Photo Credit:


Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act of 2015

Official Title

A bill to direct the Federal Communications Commission to promulgate regulations that prohibit certain preferential treatment or prioritization of Internet traffic.

bill Progress

  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The house has not voted
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
    IntroducedJanuary 7th, 2015