Republicans Drop Anti-Net Neutrality Effort
A move by Republican senators to block funding to the Federal Communications Commission for developing or implementing new network neutrality regulations is apparently over almost as quickly as it began.
Unhappy with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's Sept. 21 proposal to extend and codify the agency's network neutrality principles, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) moved on the same day to block the FCC funding. Hutchison quickly found five five fellow Republicans to co-author the amendment to an unrelated appropriations bill.
By Sept. 22, however, the effort was dropped because, the Washington Post reported, Genachowski's staff approached Huchison and the other Republicans to talk over the issue. "While we are still generally opposed to net neutrality regulations, we have decided to hold off on the amendment because [Genachowski] approached us and we are beginning a dialogue," a staff member on the Senate Energy and Commerce committee told the newspaper.
Since the Republicans are in the Senate minority, the amendment had little chance of passage.
Genachowski proposed 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 to extend network neutrality rules to mobile carriers.
Hutchison's reaction to the proposal was immediate: "I am deeply concerned by the direction the FCC appears to be heading. Even during a severe downturn, America has experienced robust investment and innovation in network performance and online content and applications. For that innovation to continue, we must tread lightly when it comes to new regulations."
Genachowski said his proposals would be included in an NPRM (notice of proposed rule making) to be presented to the FCC at its October open meeting. Although the process is expected to take months, fellow FCC Democrats Michael Copps and Mignon L. Clyburn said they would support the NPRM, giving Genachowski a majority vote.
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.
Genachowski's proposal would add non-discrimination as another network neutrality principle, prohibiting broadband providers from discriminating against particular Internet content or applications. In addition, broadband providers would be required to disclose their network management policies.
"This means they cannot block or degrade lawful traffic over their networks, or pick winners by favoring some content or applications over others in the connection to subscribers' homes," Genashowski said in an address before the Brookings Institute. "Nor can they disfavor an Internet service just because it competes with a similar service offered by that broadband provider. The Internet must continue to allow users to decide what content and applications succeed."