Saturday, April 09, 2011

House Votes Against ‘Net Neutrality’

House Votes Against ‘Net Neutrality’
New York Times
April 8, 2011

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 F.C.C. 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 F.C.C.’s authority over Internet service.

House Joint Resolution 37, which was approved by a vote of 240 to 179, was spurred by the F.C.C.’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.

But Republicans in the House maintained that the order exceeded the F.C.C.’s authority and put the government in the position of overseeing what content a consumer could see and which companies would benefit from Internet access.

“Congress has not authorized the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the Internet,” said Representative Greg P. Walden, an Oregon Republican who sponsored the resolution.

The F.C.C. order “could open the Internet to regulation from all 50 states,” Mr. Walden said, and was little more than the Obama administration’s attempt to use the regulatory process “to make an end run around” the Court of Appeals ruling.

Representative Henry A. Waxman, a California Democrat, warned of dire consequences should the resolution be approved. “This is a bill that will end the Internet as we know it and threaten the jobs, investment and prosperity that the Internet has brought to America,” Mr. Waxman said.

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 F.C.C.’s Open Internet 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.

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