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No More Net Neutrality, House Subcommittee Says No More Net Neutrality, House Subcommittee Says

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Congress

No More Net Neutrality, House Subcommittee Says

NJLive Q&A with Fred Upton on February 8, 2011.(Liz Lynch)

March 9, 2011

The House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee has voted 15-8 to overturn the FCC's net neutrality rules.

After a contentious hearing Wednesday, the subcommittee approved a resolution to overturn the Federal Communications Commission's rules that prevent Internet providers from blocking access to websites that use too much bandwidth.

The net neutrality regulations are designed to prevent Internet providers from blocking websites that use a lot of bandwidth, such as video-streaming sites like Netflix.
Republicans say net neutrality rules are unnecessary and were enacted without the proper authority.

"There is no crisis warranting intervention," Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., said in his opening statement. "The reality is, if the FCC was truly weighing the costs and benefits of its actions, the agency would not be attempting to regulate the Internet."

Although a resolution filed under the continuing resolution keeping the government running cannot be amended, Democrats registered their protest to the process by proposing a string of amendments that were each ruled non-germane during the markup that immediately followed the hearing.

Wednesday's hearing took the net neutrality debate to a level not seen in the House's first net neutrality hearing last month, which featured the FCC chairman and commissioners.

Members of both parties engaged in sometimes testy exchanges with witnesses, taking the debate up a notch after the mostly cordial first hearing.

Democrats objected to an assertion by RapidDSL & Wireless President Tom DeReggi, who argued that it is Internet providers' right to block content that violates their agreements. Republican members of the committee said the rules allow the FCC to "pick winners and losers" and give web companies an unfair advantage over Internet providers.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., joined other Republicans in criticizing GoLoco CEO, and Zipcar co-founder, Robin Chase for asserting that the net neutrality rules would protect small startups.

"Why should the FCC allow your company to innovate and not others?" Blackburn asked. When other GOP committee members accused Chase of using government regulations and taxpayer money to establish her companies, she replied "I don't think we have sucked at the government tit in any case."

Republicans on the panel also argued that it is "inappropriate" for Free Press and other groups that have lobbied for stricter net neutrality laws to say they represent consumers.

"In this country you elect your representatives," said Rep. Brian Billbray, R-Calif., who went on to compare "unelected" advocacy groups to authoritarian leaders in the Middle East and North Africa.

Despite the sometimes heated back-and-forth, the hearing largely rehashed familiar arguments by all sides.

The resolution now goes to the full House Energy and Commerce Committee. GOP senators have also introduced an identical resolution on their side, but the Senate is not likely to consider it until summer.

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