WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A group of Republican lawmakers opened another front in a battle against the Federal Communications Commission’s Internet traffic rules, filing a resolution of disapproval on Wednesday.
The congressional effort to repeal the rules follows a lawsuit filed in January by Verizon Communications that argues the FCC overstepped its authority.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Representative Fred Upton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Representative Greg Walden sponsored the resolution.
It would need to pass both chambers of Congress, where Democrats retain a majority in the Senate, and get President Barack Obama’s signature, to have effect.
In December, the FCC voted 3-2 to ban Internet service providers like Comcast Corp and Verizon from blocking traffic but gave them some discretion to ration access and manage their networks. The FCC’s two Republicans voted against the item.
The split highlighted a huge 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.
“I am concerned that this power grab will set a dangerous precedent to undermine the role of Congress as elected representatives of the people to determine the law of the land. I do not intend to allow this to occur,” said Upton in a statement on the resolution.
FCC commissioners faced a barrage of questions on the Internet rules at a congressional oversight hearing on Wednesday.
Republican Representative Joe Barton said he was mainly concerned that the FCC moved without congressional authority to regulated how the Internet functions.
John Shimkus, another Republican, pressed commissioners at the House communications subcommittee hearing on whether the FCC had done a cost-benefit analysis.
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.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski told lawmakers on Wednesday that almost everything the FCC does ends up in litigation but he expressed confidence in the latest Internet rules.
“We think we’re going to win because we think that the theory we’ve laid out is very consistent with Supreme Court” rulings in the area, he said.
Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Tim Dobbyn