Congressman Eric Massa, representative of Rochester, NY (the district where Time Warner conducted its bandwidth cap testing) has readied a Bill that would see the FCC play judge and jury on whether or not ISPs can cap their customers' bandwidth.
Congressman Eric Massa represents a district in western New York that's exquisitely sensitive to the current US broadband market. On the phone side, the area, which includes the city of Rochester, is served by Frontier Communications, which shows no indication that it will follow Verizon in offering fiber to the home, while its DSL terms of service suggest that 5GB per month is appropriate usage. On the cable side of the service duopoly, Time Warner used the area as a test market for its brief flirtation with widespread usage caps. At the time, Massa promised to respond to his constituents' outrage by introducing legislation that would regulate the imposition of usage caps; that bill is now ready. It would treat ISPs like utilities, and put the Federal Trade Commission in the role of Public Utilities Commission, ensuring that the service providers had an economic case for imposing usage-based fees.
In making the case for regulation, the bill brings together a few strands of thought that are becoming increasingly common in discussions of the role of government in fostering the development of the Internet. In short, the Internet has become essential for a variety of basic functions—the bill specifically mentions its use for "agricultural, medical, educational, environmental, library, and nonprofit purposes"—making access part of the basic infrastructure. There's also an economic case to be made for broadband, since it allows more sophisticated services and commerce to take place online.