House votes to overturn FCC Internet rules

WASHINGTON Thu Feb 17, 2011 7:29pm EST

An man gestures before a computer screen in a file photo. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

An man gestures before a computer screen in a file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The House of Representatives voted on Thursday to overturn proposed rules that bar Internet service providers from blocking legal content but give some discretion to ration access for bandwidth hogs.

The vote -- which was spearheaded by Republican lawmakers determined to undo a range of Obama administration initiatives -- would block funds to implement rules proposed by the Federal Communications Commission in December.

The measure was added as an amendment to a sweeping spending bill that will fund the government for the rest of the current fiscal year.

To become law, the measure would also need to pass the Senate, where Democrats hold a majority, and get President Barack Obama's signature. No vote has been scheduled for the measure in the Senate.

In debate on Thursday, Republican Representative Steve Scalise said the rule would stand in the way of innovation and kill jobs.

"We think the FCC overstepped their boundaries," he said. "This is something that should be done and solved in the halls of Congress."

But Democratic Representative Edward Markey said killing the rule would squash innovation. He said regulators have in the past stepped in to ensure competition -- as they did when AT&T fought the sale of telephones made by other companies to replace their black rotary telephones.

"Verizon's not going to invent anything new. What they want to do is squeeze competitors," Markey said.

In a lawsuit filed in January against the rule, Verizon Communications argues the FCC overstepped its authority.

In December, the FCC voted 3-2 to ban Internet service providers like Verizon and Comcast Corp from blocking traffic but gave them some discretion to ration access and manage their networks. The FCC's two Republicans voted against the measure.

The split highlighted a divide between those who say the Internet will flourish without regulation and those who say the power of high-speed Internet providers to discriminate against competitors needs to be restrained.

Verizon filed its complaint with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The same court ruled last year that the FCC lacked the authority to stop Comcast from blocking bandwidth-hogging applications on its broadband network, spurring the agency's most recent rulemaking effort.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz; editing by Tim Dobbyn and Mohammad Zargham)

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Comments (10)
terrestri wrote:
The Internet has not only survived, it has flourished without government controls or regulations. In fact it has flourished so much in the last twenty years that it is a serious disability to not have an internet connection someplace, either for business or personal.

If these companies want to limit or block users, or charge websites for premium access and bandwidth, let them. If they succeed or fail should be up to the business community and individual consumers. There are simply too many different ways and companies to use to access the internet. If one or another of them feels it is a wise business decision to turn away customers for one reason or another, they should be allowed to do so.

I say all of this as a power-user who will probably be affected by these companies limiting bandwidth. I suppose this is because I do not mind paying for superior service if one company cannot provide the service I seek. Any regulation forcing these companies to do anything they don’t want to do will deter investment in improving connection speeds and access to all.

Feb 17, 2011 7:48pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Trooth wrote:
The FCC is sadly turning into a non elected partisan group that villianizes US corporations for succeeding. Perhaps there is some hope left for the US corporation after all. I don’t get how the Democrats can not figure out why unemployment is so high and that they are committed to creating jobs, and then the next breath start attacking every company in every job sector that they can.

Feb 17, 2011 7:56pm EST  --  Report as abuse
idlespire1 wrote:
@Trooth: If you look at past statistics, it’s small business that does the majority of hiring after a recession, NOT large corporations. If the small internet start-ups cannot guarantee unfettered access to their customers, they will fail. That is what Rep Markey is referring to with the large internet providers stifling innovation. And some of these large internet providers are already charging Netflix an additional fee to provide streaming service to it’s customers.

Feb 17, 2011 9:22pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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