Walden: FCC Net Rules Could Lead To Google Regs

House holds hearing on resolution to invalidate FCC's new network neutrality regs
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House
Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said Wednesday
that the FCC should not regulate Google's business any more than it should
ISPs.

That
came in opening remarks in the Communications Subcommittee legislative hearing
on a resolution to invalidate the FCC's new network neutrality regulations.

Upton,
who along with Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.)
strongly backs the resolution, said that if the FCC's rules were allowed to
stand, logic would lead to the commission ultimately regulating Google and
others. The FCC regs do not currently apply to applications and other
content providers.

But Upton
said that Google engages in subjective prioritization that affects traffic and
can financially impact Websites, which are among the arguments for the FCC
mandating nondiscrimination by ISPs, as it does in the new regs, subject to
reasonable network management.

"Should
the FCC be determining whether Google is engaged in unreasonable
discrimination? Is Google's traffic management reasonable? Would it be
appropriate for the government to intervene because of the possibility of
future harm, without any analysis of a current problem or market power?,"
he asked. His answer was no. "I think not - not for Google, or anyone
else."

Cable
operators agree that regs are not needed, but the National Cable &
Telecommunications Association (NCTA) has also argued that if the FCC
imposed any regs, it should have done so on both rather than singling out ISPs
for special treatment.

In arguing
for the regs Wednesday, Walden cited a commentary by "grandfather of
the Internet" and former FCC Chief Technologist David Farber that the
FCC's new rules "will sweep broadband ISPs, and potentially the entire
Internet, into the Big Tent of Regulation."

Walden
said blocking the rules was not just about the Internet, but the FCC's wider
authority. "FCC's underlying theory of authority would allow the
commission to regulate any interstate communication service on barely more than
a whim and without any additional input from Congress," he said. "I do not want
to cede such authority to the FCC."

Democrats
on the committee, led by former Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Henry
Waxman (D-Calif.), said there was a disconnect between the facts and Republican
efforts to block the rules. He said he had heard from economists who have
backed the rules, pointed out that broadband providers did not oppose them--the
National Cable & Telecommunications Association, which helped negotiate the
compromise regs, has said it supports them, at least as preferable to tougher
regs. He also pointed to a consumer survey released Tuesday
finding the respondents backed the regs. "But none of these facts seem to
matter," he said.

Waxman
warned that the rule blocking effort was a distraction from more important telecom
issues like freeing up spectrum, creating a public safety communications
network and reforming the Universal Service Fund. All those are on the FCC's
docket.

Ranking
subcommittee member Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), whose district includes numerous
content and app companies pushing for net neutrality regs, also pointed out
that stakeholders like the NCTA and AT&T do not see the regs as
menacing. She also pointed to what she said was a flood of letters from
religious leaders, consumer groups and high tech associations opposing the
resolution to block the regs.

She
warned that the resolution would create uncertainty about FCC authority beyond
the order itself, and could affect its ability to promote pubic safety and
protect against online privacy violations and piracy. She said the rules were
necessary to prevent blocking access and unreasonable discrimination and
consumers and businesses being told what sources of content they can access.

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