House Debates FCC Net Neutrality Rules

Vote expected by Thursday on blocking FCC action
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The House voted 241 to 178 Tuesday to take up the
Republican-backed FCC network neutrality rule-blocking resolution under a
closed rule, which means limited debate (one hour) and no amendments.

That came after the debate in the full House Tuesday, also
an hour, on H.J. Res. 37, which would invalidate the FCCs' Dec. 21 vote to expand
and codify its network neutrality guidelines. The resolution is expected to be
approved on a primarily partly line vote in the House in a vote either
Wednesday or Thursday, according to a House Energy & Commerce Committee
spokesperson, though it will likely go no further given the
Democratic-controlled Senate and the President's public support for the rules.

Republicans Tuesday likened the rules to a fairness doctrine
for the Internet and first-time regulation of a thriving space that needs
no government intrusion, while Democrats said they were a compromise approach,
supported by most parties that would preserve openness and innovation.

Rob Woodall (R-Ga.) kicked off the debate on the resolution,
saying Congress should reject it because the FCC does not have the
authority to impose the regs. "This bill is about congressional prerogatives,"
he said, about standing up to a regulatory branch that is overstepping its
authority. He called the rules "A solution to a problem that doesn't exist
using authority the FCC does not have."

Woodall said the Internet should be free of government
regulation. He defended the vote on the resolution as a closed rule--no
amendments and limited debate--because that is the nature of the resolution,
which is an up or down vote on a single item. The resolution is a one-page
statement that the reg is invalid.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) said it would imperil job
creation. Polis, who once ran an ISP and
launched proflowers.com, called
it a "terrible" one-page bill. He said the FCC had done an
exemplary job on the rules and had received "buy-ins" from most
of the major broadband suppliers. He said the FCC did their job by listening to
all parties and revising their net neutrality regs.

He pointed out that in the Rules Committee, Rep. Greg Walden
(R-Ore.) had suggested some of those had been coerced into that support.
He said he did not have enough info to dispute that, but cited financial
analysts who said the FCC's new rules had removed the "regulatory
overhang" and they were no longer concerned. He cited Goldman Sachs as
saying the rules were "light touch." He also pointed to Comcast
as saying the new rules are a workable balance of competing interests.

He said the rules essentially preserve the status quo, and
prevent a power shift from content to broadband providers.

Polis cited what he called "censoring" incidents,
including Madison River blocking VoIP for example. He
said the rule was critical to preserving a free and open Internet. He
talked of the possibility of blocking political speech.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said that there has
been no market failure and that the public does not want the government
stepping in to assign priority and value for content. "It is basically the
fairness doctrine for the Internet."

She said the resolution was about the issues of power and
control. She said that the FCC had stepped in and brought uncertainty to the
marketplace. Citing paragraph 84 of the order, she said that application
innovators would have to apply to the FCC first.

Polis said he opposed the fairness doctrine, and that the
FCC rules would promote a marketplace of ideas that is the antithesis of the
doctrine.

Blackburn and Polis engaged in a
spirited argument over whether the rules were an Internet fairness doctrine,
with Polis eventually closing that debate by saying they could continue
the argument on Blackburn's time.

Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) said that the left was arguing that
the internet needed to be regulated to keep the Internet from being
regulated. He called the rules a regulatory scheme from presidential
appointees. Terry acknowledged that there have been a handful of
incidents, but the marketplace with a little bit of government involvement have
resolved them.

Rep. Greg Walden, chair of the Communications
Subcommittee, who proposed the resolution, said the FCC's own order would prohibit
religious organizations from creating a specialized service, responding to
Democrats arguing that without the rules, ISPs could block political or
religious speech. Walden said the net was already free and open, and not
"because the government picked winners and losers."

Walden said he was using the Congressional Review Act
because it was narrow and targeted. He also called the FCC's decision a
"naked grab for power" that could open up the door for state
regulation. He also said that ISP's not
opposing the rules were still threatened with an open Title I proceeding.
"The last thing you are going to do is poke your regulator," he
said.

Polis said that the rulemaking has nothing to do with
proprietary networks, religious or otherwise. Walden said he did not think
that was the case. He said the FCC had singled out Koshernet
in its order to say that was an example of something that was not
kosher, as it were.

He also pointed out that the rules apply to the pipes, but
not the content providers or search engines. He wasn't arguing for
including them in the rules, but making the point that the FCC was allowing
them to control and prioritize access to their searches.

Republicans and Democrats were essentially reprising their
debate a day earlier in the House Rules Committee, this time for a C-SPAN
audience.

The White House has advised the president to veto the
resolution if it gets through the Senate, which is unlikely.

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