Washington

Barton: Let's Not Rush Into Net Neutrality Bill

Top House Commerce Committee Republican says no agreement on net bill 9/29/2010 11:14:24 PM Eastern

Top House Energy & Commerce Committee Dems led by Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) did not get the Republican side of the bipartisan support they were seeking on a compromise network neutrality bill.

That became clear Wednesday when Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), ranking member of the committee released a statement saying that "if the majority wants to work on a solution to continue a free and open Internet, let's consider the issue deliberately, rather than punting with a halfway measure two days before the end of Congress."

Barton said he had consulted with Republican leadership and that there was not enough time to insure the bill would preserve an open Internet without chilling innovation.

According to a draft of the bill, it would apply a nondiscrimination principle to wired broadband, but only apply it to wireless in limited circumstances. It would also codify the FCC's existing network openness guidelines. In fact, its language was not far from the FCC's proposed network neutrality rulemaking.

Even so, industry players were said to be reasonably happy with the language, while network neutrality fans were concerned about foreclosing the Title II option, as the bill would have done with some qualification.

Barton's public declaration all but forecloses any swift action on a legislative solution, or at least a signal to the FCC that Congress would take the lead. That puts the ball back in the FCC's court. It remains a possibility that FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski could slate Title II reclassification for the November 30 open meeting. He has the three-vote majority he needs.

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