House Communications Subcommittee Votes 15 to 8 to Block FCC Net Rules - Broadcasting & Cable

House Communications Subcommittee Votes 15 to 8 to Block FCC Net Rules

Resolution not expected to make it to President's desk
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After Democrats tried to introduce a number of
amendments that were all ruled non-germane, the House Communications
Subcommittee voted 15 to 8 Wednesday to block the FCC's just-passed network neutrality
rules.

According to a committee spokesperson, all 15 yes votes were Republicans, all no votes Democrats, but with three Dems, Reps. Pallone, Rush and Bass, not voting.

The vote came after a substantive hearing Wednesday on the
joint resolution (J.HR
37) of disapproval, a legislative mechanism for blocking agency actions by
Congress.

The resolution is not expected to make it to the President's
desk, given the Democratically controlled Senate.

"This is a destructive resolution that threatens openness
and innovation on the Internet," said former Energy & Commerce
Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) in his opening statement.
"Instead of protecting the consumer, this action will tie the hands of the
FCC and give broadband network operators a green light to block from consumers
any applications, content, and services they choose to block.

"We are disappointed but not surprised by the House
Communications Subcommittee's vote to roll back the open Internet rules
approved by the Federal Communications Commission last December," said
Public Knowledge founder Gig Sohn.

"It is discouraging that the subcommittee members based
their votes on the unfounded notion that the FCC was trying to regulate
the Internet' and was exceeding its authority.  The Commission is in no
way regulating the Internet. It was merely attempting to return to a modest
level of traditional authority needed to safeguard the rights of Internet users
and entrepreneurs like Chase."

Subcommittee Republicans argue that the FCC is
exceeding its authority and imposing new regs, on speculation of harms not
proved, on an internet ecosystem that was thriving without them.

During the markup, at which Republicans passed on opening
statements to get on with the vote on the single-paragraph resolution,
Democrats warned that it could prevent the FCC from exercising authority in
some key areas like public safety and privacy.

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), one of whose amendments was ruled
non-germane, said he wanted to make sure the committee was not making removing
FCC oversight from insuring the building of a broadband public safety
network, or prohibiting online child pornography or fraud.

Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) pointed out
that committee counsel had assured them it did not, and knocked down each
amendment on non-germaneness not long after it was introduced. Other amendments
included on transparency and non-blocking of Web sites, both issues addressed
in the FCC network neutrality regs the committee voted to invalidate.

"We are deeply disappointed that Congress has chosen to move
forward with this dangerous overreach that would hamstring the FCC and leave
Internet users unprotected from discrimination online," said Free Press
Research Director Derek Turner. "If this resolution becomes law, companies
like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon will have free rein to censor free speech or
block access to any website."

Turner testified against the resolution at the legislative
hearing preceding the vote.

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