Republicans Move to Block Network Neutrality

Senate Republicans react quickly to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's proposal to expand the Federal Communications Commission's network neutrality authority. Working on an unrelated appropriations bill, Republican senators push an amendment to deny the FCC funds for developing or implementing new Internet regulations.

Just hours after Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski proposed expanding the network neutrality authority of the agency Sept. 21, Senate Republicans moved to block the initiative. Using an appropriations bill as a vehicle, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison introduced an amendment that would deny the FCC any funds for developing or implementing new Internet regulations.
"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," Hutchison said in a statement. "For that innovation to continue, we must tread lightly when it comes to new regulations. Where there have been a handful of questionable actions in the past on the part of a few companies, the commission and the marketplace have responded swiftly."
Co-sponsoring the amendment were Republican Sens. John Ensign, Sam Brownback, David Vitter, Jim DeMint and John Thune.
"In this struggling economy, any industry that is able to thrive should be allowed to do so without meddlesome government interference that could stifle innovation," Ensign said in a statement. "We must avoid burdensome government regulations that micromanage private businesses or that limit the ability of companies to provide what their customers want. The Internet has flourished in large part because of a lack of government interference; I see no need to change that now."
Genachowski proposed Sept. 21 new network neutrality rules that would require carriers to deliver broadband in a nondiscriminatory manner and to disclose their network management policies. Genachowski also said the FCC would explore the question of whether to extend network neutrality rules to mobile carriers.
Genachowski said his proposals would be included in an NPRM (notice of proposed rulemaking) 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 according to four principles the agency approved in 2005. The principles prohibit broadband carriers from blocking lawful Internet content, applications and services, and allow users to attach legal devices to networks.
Genachowski's proposal would add nondiscrimination 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," Genachowski said in an address before the Brookings Institute Sept. 21. "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."