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Hearing on Net Neutrality Resolution Set Hearing on Net Neutrality Resolution Set

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Congress

Hearing on Net Neutrality Resolution Set

March 3, 2011

The House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday on a resolution aimed at blocking network neutrality rules approved by the Federal Communications Commission in February.

The subcommittee postponed a scheduled markup on March 2 after the panel's top Democrats called for a hearing on the resolution of disapproval, introduced by Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore. The resolution of disapproval, under the Congressional Review Act, gives lawmakers a limited amount of time to try to overturn federal regulations after they are issued.

It's the second hearing the panel has held this year on net neutrality. All five FCC commissioners appeared before the subcommittee last month to discuss the net neutrality order, which was approved on a party-line 3-2 vote in December.

While Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., an Energy and Commerce member, said Wednesday afternoon that a markup would be held following the hearing, a committee spokeswoman would not confirm that.

Energy and Commerce ranking member Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who along with Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., had requested the hearing, told Tech Daily Dose he did not have problem if the markup takes place after the hearing.

He said he is satisfied that supporters of net neutrality will have an opportunity to explain the implications of the resolution and other efforts to reverse the FCC's net neutrality order, which is aimed at barring broadband providers from discriminating against Internet content and applications.

Free Press Political Adviser Joel Kelsey, whose group strongly backs network neutrality rules, said unlike an amendment that was added to legislaiton to fund government operations, the resolution under the CRA would have much broader implications. The amendment that Walden successfully added to the continuing resolution funding the federal government for the rest of the year would bar the FCC from using its funds to implement the net neutrality rules.

Kelsey, however, argued that the resolution of disapproval would bar the FCC from enforcing any rules "tangentially" related to net neutrality and would prohibit the agency from implementing any similar rules, he said. "It's much broader and much more of a blunt object than Walden's amendment," Kelsey added.

Given the potential impact, it is unclear whether the 10 Democrats who backed Walden's amendment to the spending bill would be willing to go along with his resolution as well. Rep. John Barrow of Georgia is the only Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee who voted for Walden's amendment to the spending bill. A Barrow spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on the issue.

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