NY Times: House Votes to Block FCC’s Open Internet Order

by on Apr.09, 2011, under Uncategorized

(Original at New York Times)

Published: April 8, 2011

WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives approved a measure on Friday that would prohibit the Federal Communications Commission from regulating how Internet service providers manage their broadband networks, potentially overturning a central initiative of the FCC chairman, Julius Genachowski.

The action, which is less likely to pass the Senate and which President Obama has threatened to veto, is nevertheless significant because it puts half of the legislative branch on the same side of the debate as the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in restricting the FCC’s authority over Internet service.

House Joint Resolution 37, which was approved by a vote of 240 to 179, was spurred by the FCC’s approval in December of an order titled “Preserving the Open Internet.” The order forbids the companies that provide the pipeline through which consumers gain access to the Internet from blocking a user’s ability to reach legal Internet sites or to use legal applications.

[. . .]

It is likely that Democrats in the Senate can defeat the measure, but by no means is that certain. The joint resolution was initiated under the Congressional Review Act, meaning that it cannot be filibustered and requires the support of only 30 senators to bring it to the floor.

President Obama courted Silicon Valley supporters during his campaign by promising to enact a “net neutrality” provision, as the FCC’s order is known. Advisers to the president have said that he will veto the resolution; it would then take a vote by two-thirds of each house of Congress to override the veto.

In addition to opposing the FCC’s order in Congress, some broadband providers, including Verizon, have said they will challenge the order in court. Those challenges can begin once the regulations become final, in a few months. Last year, the appeals court ruled that the FCC did not prove it had the authority to sanction another major Internet provider, Comcast, for blocking access to the file-sharing service BitTorrent.

[. . .]

Democrats [. . .] said that without the FCC’s open Internet policy, broadband companies that also own content providers, like Comcast’s ownership of NBC, would be free to block the Web sites of competitors. Six Democrats voted with the majority on the resolution, while two Republicans voted against the bill.

[. . .]

Few of the debaters raised some of the more technical issues that are at the center of the debate over broadband regulation, like specialized services and tiered rates. Specialized services, for which a broadband company uses part of its Internet pipeline to deliver dedicated services to specific customers, worry regulators who fear that companies will invest more to develop those more profitable offerings while neglecting to update basic broadband service.

[. . .]

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