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House subcommittee votes to kill net neutrality

Grant Gross | March 9, 2011
A House subcommittee votes to kill net neutrality rules.

FRAMINGHAM 9 MARCH 2011 - A U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee has voted in favor of a resolution to throw out the U.S. Federal Communications Commission's recently adopted net neutrality rules.

The communications subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted 15-8 along party lines for a resolution of disapproval that would overturn the FCC's rules. Those rules would prohibit broadband providers from selectively blocking or slowing Web traffic.

The resolution would also prohibit the FCC from re-attempting to create similar net neutrality rules.

The FCC lacks legal authority to pass the rules, and government intervention would hurt the Internet, said Representative Greg Walden, the subcommittee's chairman and an Oregon Republican. "The Internet works pretty well -- it's the government that doesn't," he said.

The net neutrality rules will slow investment in broadband networks, Walden added. "These regulations will cost jobs," he said.

The resolution will next go to the full committee, and if approved there, to the full House. If the Republican-controlled House approves the resolution, it would then move to the Senate, where Democrats hold the majority. The Senate is unlikely to pass the resolution.

Subcommittee Republicans pushed through the resolution despite statements from AT&T and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association saying they could live with the rules. AT&T would prefer no net neutrality regulations, but the rules passed by the FCC Dec. 21 represent a better solution than an earlier FCC proposal to impose additional common-carrier regulations, said James Cicconi, AT&T's senior executive vice president for external and legislative affairs.

The FCC's net neutrality rules are consistent with AT&T's business practices, Cicconi said. "We do think it's a reasonable middle ground," he said.

Net neutrality rules are needed to allow small businesses to use the Web without interference from broadband providers, said Robin Chase, co-founder of car-sharing service Zipcar. An open Internet was essential to Zipcar's success, she said.

"Network neutrality is not excessive regulation that will stifle innovation," she said. "Network neutrality promotes innovation and protects consumers by preventing telecommunications companies from stifling new thinking, new services and new applications."

Democratic lawmakers argued that the resolution was taking committee time away from more pressing broadband matters, including proposals to free up new spectrum and the creation of a nationwide, mobile public safety network. The resolution, given its dim chances in the Senate, is a "waste of time," said Representative Anna Eshoo, a California Democrat.

The net neutrality rules allow Web users to control their online experiences, she added. "We want the consumers to make the choice, not corporations," she said.

 

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