The new leadership of the House Energy & Commerce Committee—which oversees bills that govern broadcasting—has a large target in their sights, that is the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) controversial “Open Internet” rules, better known as “net neutrality,” approved by the FCC on Dec. 21, 2010.
U.S. Congress Some members of the House are lining up against the Federal Communication Commission’s ‘Open Internet’ rules. Photo by J.J. Smith The new House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich.; communications and technology subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore.; and Vice Chairman Lee Terry, R-Neb., have all vowed to fight the net neutrality rules.
The rules—approved in 3-2 split vote—require Internet providers to ensure “transparency” regarding the “network management practices, performance and commercial terms of its broadband Internet access services.” Providers are also required to “not block lawful content,” and “applications that compete with the provider’s voice or video telephone services,” and “shall not unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful network traffic.”
CONGRESSIONAL REVIEW ACT
However, in a written statement, Upton says because the rules are “hostile actions toward innovation, investment and job creation (they) cannot be allowed to stand. We must use every resource available, including the Congressional Review Act (which allows Congress to repeal regulations), to strike down the FCC’s brazen effort to regulate the Internet.”
“Despite FCC claims that these are just rules of the road that everyone agrees with, anyone can recognize that what the commission claims to be statements of broad industry support are really cries of ‘uncle’ resulting from threats of even more onerous regulation,” Upton says. All the commission has done “is further harm our economy and job growth,” he added.
Walden, who has been tapped by Upton to “take the lead on beating back the regulations,” questions whether the FCC has the authority to regulate the Internet, saying, “More troubling than the substance of the network neutrality rules, are the legal theories underpinning them. If left unchallenged, this power grab will allow the commission to regulate any interstate wired or wireless communication on barely more than a whim.”
Walden says the Capitol Hill opponents of the Open Internet rules “plan to look at all legislative options for reversing the decision,” and a series of hearings are planned that will examine “the substance, process and claims of authority underlying this proceeding.”
Terry says the FCC acted “irresponsibly” by approving the Open Internet rules, which “will be a major setback for consumers and will stifle new investment.” In addition, the FCC pursued “a course unauthorized and opposed by most members of Congress,” he said.