GOP Moves To Defund FCC Net Neutrality Regs While Commissioners Grilled By House Panel
February 16, 2011 at 6:10 PM (PT)
All five FCC Commissioners testified at a hearing on Net Neutrality held by the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology TODAY (NET NEWS 2/16). The hearing is based around the specific question, "Network Neutrality and Internet Regulation: Warranted or More Economic Harm than Good?"
But as THE WASHINGTON POST reported, key Republican lawmakers have "introduced a legislative amendment to take away funding that would enable the agency to carry out its rules. Rep. GREG WALDEN (R-OR), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, said TUESDAY he added an amendment to the continuing resolution that would essentially block the FCC's attempts to administer its Internet access rules. WALDEN consulted with Appropriations Committee members Reps. TOM GRAVES (R-GA) and MARIO DIAZ-BALART (R-FL)." The resolution of diapproval was introduced TODAY in the midst of the hearing.
"In the end these are issues better determined by network engineers, entrepreneurs and consumers acting in a vigorous marketplace, not the subjective politicized judgments of a federal agency," WALDEN wrote in a release.
The amendment reads:
None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to implement the Report and Order of the FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION relating to the matter of preserving the open Internet and broadband industry practices (FCC 10-201, adopted by the Commission on DECEMBER 21st, 2010).
Democrats were quick to reply. "To offer for approval on the floor, without the benefit of prior consideration by our Committee, amendments that terminate FCC proceedings and affect other policy areas completely undercuts the normal legislative process," wrote Rep. HENRY A. WAXMAN (CA), Rep. JOHN D. DINGELL (MI), Rep. EDWARD J. MARKEY (MA) and Rep. ANNA G. ESHOO (CA). "Moreover, there is no urgency to act on these matters with respect to HR 1. The Continuing Resolution is a budget bill; riders on the Open Internet rules or other FCC issues have no effect whatsoever on the critical spending and budget issues addressed by the Continuing Resolution," they wrote in a letter to colleagues on the committee.
Republican Majority Grills Commissioners On Net Neutrality
At the hearing, Committee Chairman FRED UPTON (R-MI) ripped the Commission for doing "nothing to specifically quantify any harm requiring intervention, or the potential harm to consumers, innovation or the economy from the proposed rules" on Net Neutrality, while WALDEN said the Commission did no market analysis and "just selectively applied the rules to broadband providers, shielding Web companies." GENACHOWSKI protested that the Commission "did do a market analysis," and MARKEY said that he only wished that the Commission "had gone further" in its regulation.
In addition, GENACHOWSKI got quizzed on spectrum issues by Rep. JOHN DINGELL (D-MI), who asked whether the Commission would forcibly reclaim spectrum from a broadcaster if the proposed voluntary auctions are not sufficient to reallocate spectrum for mobile broadband. The Chairman responded that the Commissioners "haven't addressed that question," and later sparred with DINGELL over whether the auctions were more a free market solution or forced like a bank holdup.
GENACHOWSKI's prepared remarks defended his broadband plan, saying, "I believe we did the right thing, and I am proud of the fact that our framework has attracted support from the broadest consensus ever assembled on this challenging topic. Our framework has drawn support from groups and individuals representing the technology industry; investors small and large; consumers, labor, and civil rights groups; and major broadband providers. I'm also pleased that market analysts overwhelmingly found our action to be a light- touch approach that increases certainty throughout the broadband ecosystem, and that recognizes the need to earn returns on investments."
Commissioner MICHAEL COPPS, reiterating his remarks before the FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS BAR ASSOCIATION luncheon the day before, said, "This is not about government regulating the Internet. It is about ensuring that consumers, rather than Big Telephone or Big Cable, have maximum control of their experiences when they go online." Commissioner MIGNON CLYBURN detailed her contention that the Commission's process on the Internet rules was sufficiently open and not rushed, and that the Internet marketplace is not "functioning fine" but is subject to several formal complaints and thus in need of rules to "ensure that the Internet remains open and vibrant, and that millions of surfers, innovators, and every day consumers, will have the essential protections they need, so that an open Internet is still there tomorrow."
And Commissioner MEREDITH ATTWELL BAKER asserted that "There were no systemic problems around Net Neutrality for the Commission to solve in December. The Internet is open without the need for affirmative government regulation. Lacking an evidentiary record of documented industry-wide abuses, the Commission's Net Neutrality decision was based on speculative harms -- the word "could" alone appears over 60 times. By acting in anticipation of hypothetical harms, the Commission was unable to act in a targeted manner to address specific market failures or harm to consumers."