Tuesday, 05 April 2011

House Moves Forward With Net Neutrality Resolution

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Moments ago, the United States House of Representatives voted 241 to 178 in favor of taking up the FCC network neutrality rule-blocking resolution under a closed rule, meaning that debate was limited to one hour and no amendments were permitted. The vote came after the debate in the full House Tuesday, which also lasted an hour, which invalidates the FCC�s vote to expand its net neutrality guidelines.

Broadcasting Cable writes, The resolution is expected to be approved on a primarily party line vote in the House in a vote either Wednesday or Thursday, according to a House Energy & Commerce Committee spokesperson, though it will likely go no further given the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Presidents public support for the rules.

Debate on the resolution began with Rob Woodall (R-Ga.), who called on Congress to reject FCCs authority to impose the regulations. This bill is about congressional prerogatives. A solution to a problem that doesnt exist using authority the FCC does not have.

Democratic Representative Jared Polis defended the regulations, claiming the resolution would negatively impact job creation. Polis contends that the FCC is doing an exemplary job.

By contrast, Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) asserts that there has been no market failure and that the public disapproves of government overreach. It is basically the fairness doctrine for the Internet.

Broadcasting Cable explains, Blackburn and Polis engaged in a spirited argument over whether the rules were an Internet fairness doctrine, with Polis eventually closing that debate by saying they could continue the argument on Blackburns time.

Representative Greg Walden, chair of the Communications Subcommittee, proposed the resolution, and declared that the FCCs order would prohibit religious organizations from creating a specialized service. Walden declared that the Internet was already free, and not because the government picked winners and losers.

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Yesterday, the House Rules Committee voted 7 to 3 in favor of moving forward the resolution to disapprove of the Federal Communications Commission net neutrality regulations.

The concise resolution states:

Resolved by the Senate and House of representatives of the Union that Congress disapproves the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission relating to the matter of preserving the open Internet and broadband industry practices (Report and Order FCC 10-201, adopted by the Commission on December 21, 2010), and such rule shall have no force or effect.

CNET News explains of resolution disapprovals:

A resolution of disapproval is a formal process, outlined in the Congressional Review Act that permits Congress to overturn decisions of federal agencies. It requires both the House and the Senate to vote, and is subject to a presidential veto, but is not subject to a filibuster and only requires 51 votes to clear the Senate.

The FCC Net Neutrality regulations establish FCC jurisdiction over the Internet. TNAs Alex Newman wrote of the rules:

The new regulations purport to establish FCC jurisdiction over the Internet by giving it authority to dictate how Internet Service Providers (ISPs) do business and to punish companies that do not comply with the executive branchs decrees. The Order, as the FCC regulations are being dubbed, also claims to allow FCC bureaucrats to get involved in disputes about how Internet firms are managing their networks.

The regulations demand transparency in ISP pricing and operations, prevent companies from blocking or slowing down lawful content to speed up their content, and forbids unreasonable discrimination in network management.

As noted by the Washington Examiner, The FCCs adoption of these rules was extremely controversial, given the disapproval of Congress and an earlier court ruling that the FCC does not have the power to regulate the Internet.

Though the regulations were approved in December, they dont actually take effect until the summer.

Earlier in March, the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee voted 15-8 to disapprove the FCCs net neutrality rules. The vote following a series of hearings, where representatives and witnesses debated the best way to regulate the Internet. Supporters of the FCC rules indicated a preference for heavy-handed regulations, with opponents asserting that the Internet should be free of authority.

At the final hearing before that vote, Committee Chair Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) stated, There is no crisis warranting intervention. The Internet is open and thriving precisely because we have refrained from regulating it.

The resolution is expected to fail in the Senate, however, and if by some miracle it does pass the Senate, the White House has already advised the president to veto it.