Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has made reinstating net neutrality via FCC appointments one of his campaign promises, The Daily Dot reported today. He is far from alone among the Democratic presidential candidates in supporting the policy, but appears to be the first to make it part of his election campaign.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Senator told The Daily Dot:
When Bernie Sanders is president, he will appoint FCC commissioners who will reinstate net neutrality protections and make sure that giant corporations treat all content and traffic equally.
I’ve contacted the Sanders campaign for confirmation and further information, and will update this post if I hear back.
Sanders has supported net neutrality consistently when it has come up over the years, speaking out for it when it was established in 2015’s Open Internet Order and speaking against the FCC’s order overturning it.
Revamping the FCC’s lineup isn’t something he could do instantly; commissioners serve five-year terms, though the newest appointees are the Democrats forming the majority of the five-person commission, so the next president will have the ability to choose a new Democratic commissioner when one of the Republicans leaves. (It’s likely that Chairman Pai would leave his position if a Democrat was elected president.)
Legislation and executive action are other options for addressing the net neutrality issue; lawmakers are actively pursuing the former, though any bill can be considered dead on arrival in the Senate right now, since Republican legislators are mostly against net neutrality, and it would likely be vetoed even if it passed through Congress.
Among the other Democratic presidential frontrunners, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have both been vocal supporters of net neutrality, as well.
“Under this administration the FCC has become a puppet for giant internet providers,” said Warren in a speech on the floor last year in favor of a measure that would have rolled back the latest FCC rules. “If the FCC will not stand up for the public interest, it’s up to Congress to do so. But it’ll take this Republican-controlled Congress prying itself free from the grip of giant companies and doing what’s right for the American people.”
Sen. Harris told the FCC in her official comment on Restoring Internet Freedom:
Broadband providers must not be allowed to tilt the competitive playing field by blocking or throttling their competitors, prioritizing their own offerings, or otherwise unreasonably interfering with lawful content. Title II of the Communications Act is currently the only legal basis for establishing those vital protections for America’s consumers and businesses, and so I also urge the Commission to maintain that legal foundation
I won’t list their comments exhaustively, but Andrew Yang, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Pete Buttigieg and others have been on the record historically or lately as supporting net neutrality and have taken various actions to promote it or voted for legislation to restore it.
The major outlier among all these is Joe Biden, who has spoken against certain forms of net neutrality in the past, but also was present for the Obama-prioritized push to instate it during the duo’s second term. The issue and situation was different in 2006 and 2007, but it’s hard to give the guy a pass just because it was a few years ago — especially when the first thing he did after announcing his bid for the presidency was to hold a fundraiser hosted by a Comcast executive.
While it’s never safe to assume anything, it seems highly likely that any of these candidates, should they be elected, would take the steps Sanders describes. But it’s notable that Sanders is the first to make it official.