February 18, 2011

House Attempts To Block New FCC Internet Rules

Voting on Thursday to overturn proposed rules that bar internet service providers from blocking legal content, the House of Representatives aim to block funds to implement rules proposed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in December.

Spearheaded by Republican lawmakers determined to undo a range of Obama administration initiatives, the measure was added as an amendment to a sweeping spending bill that will fund the government for the rest of the current fiscal year. Senate passage is essential for it to become law, but Democrats hold a majority in the Senate. No vote has been scheduled for the measure as of yet.

In debate on Thursday, Republican Representative Steve Scalise claims the rule would stand in the way of innovation and kill jobs. "We think the FCC overstepped their boundaries," he tells Reuters. "This is something that should be done and solved in the halls of Congress."

Democratic Representative Edward Markey claims that halting the measure would squash innovation. Regulators, have in the past, he continued, stepped in to ensure competition -- as they did when AT&T bitterly opposed the sale of telephones made by other companies to replace their black rotary telephones.

"Verizon's not going to invent anything new. What they want to do is squeeze competitors," Markey tells Reuters.

The FCC voted 3-2 in December to ban internet service providers like Verizon and Comcast Corp. from blocking traffic but gave them some discretion to ration access and manage their networks. The FCC's two Republicans voted against the measure.

The debate highlights a split between those who say the internet will improve and grow best with less regulation and those who say the power of high-speed internet providers to discriminate against competitors needs to be restrained.

Verizon filed its complaint with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia which ruled last year that the FCC lacked the authority to stop Comcast from blocking bandwidth-hogging applications on its broadband network, spurring the agency's most recent rule making effort.


On the Net: