The House Republican leadership warned President Obama Oct. 2 that expanded network neutrality rules and the formal codification of those rules will jeopardize future broadband network investment by carriers. Moreover, the minority leadership claimed, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski is inserting politics into the National Broadband Plan the FCC is preparing for Congress.
"We believe that network neutrality regulations would actually thwart further broadband investment and availability, and that a well-reasoned broadband plan would confirm our view," House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Republican whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., wrote in a letter to Obama. "So to hastily begin the process of adopting network neutrality rules months before issuing such a plan implies that politics are driving the FCC's decision-making process."
Genachowski proposed Sept. 21 new network neutrality rules that would require carriers to deliver broadband in a non-discriminatory manner and to disclose their network management policies in a transparent manner. Genachowski also said the FCC would explore whether or not to extend network neutrality rules to mobile carriers.
The FCC currently enforces network neutrality on a case-by-case basis through four principles the agency approved in 2005. The principles prohibit broadband carriers from blocking lawful Internet content, applications and services and allows users to attach legal devices to the network. The FCC network neutrality principles are currently under legal challenge by Comcast.
"As Americans wade through the current economic situation, a decision by the FCC to discourage broadband investment would be irresponsible," Boehner and Cantor wrote. "The United States needs broadband providers to increase investment and create jobs. This will not occur if broadband providers are saddled with unnecessary, burdensome requirements that interfere with their ability to manage their networks and create innovative broadband products that maximize consumer choice and benefit."
In what is becoming a political tit-for-tat over network neutrality, groups supporting network neutrality quickly responded to Boehner and Cantor's letter to Obama.
"It is truly unfortunate that the House Republican leadership has put itself in the position of trying to slow down the greatest economic engine for job creativity and innovation ever created. Under the neutral, non-discriminatory Internet, thousands and thousands of new businesses were created and millions of dollars were invested," Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge, said in a statement.
Added Markham Erickson, executive director of the Open Internet Coalition: "The Internet existed for more than 25 years under a neutral regime. During that time, a national data network was built out by telcos and cable providers, despite a neutrality requirement. To suggest that a return to that status quo threatens broadband investment is not borne out by experience. In fact, it is critical to investment that this issue be addressed sooner rather than later-further delay in addressing this core policy issue will harm investment flows into new and innovative technologies."
Obama supported network neutrality during his campaign for the White House, and his appointment of Genachowski, who wrote the president's communication policy, is widely seen as an endorsement of network neutrality.
On the same day Genachowski proposed to expand the FCC's network neutrality rules, Obama said in a speech: "FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is announcing a set of principles to preserve an open Internet in which all Americans can participate and benefit. I am pleased that he is taking this step. It is an important reminder that the role of government is to provide investment that spurs innovation and common-sense ground rules to ensure that there is a level playing field for all comers who seek to contribute their innovations."