Language that would have barred the Federal Communications Commission from extending all its network neutrality rules to wireless providers was deleted on Thursday from compromise spectrum legislation to be attached to a payroll tax cut package.
The net neutrality provision was adopted as an amendment during the House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee's December markup of spectrum legislation crafted by the panel's GOP leaders.
The subcommittee's spectrum legislation was included in the payroll-tax cut bill the House passed late last year. The amendment, offered by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., would have barred the FCC from imposing any net neutrality requirements when issuing licenses to wireless carriers as a result of the incentive auctions authorized by the spectrum bill.
Republicans strongly opposed the net neutrality rules approved by the FCC in December 2010 even though they did not go as far as proponents wanted. The rules exempted wireless carriers from a provision barring broadband providers from discriminating against content. Despite this, congressional Republicans have repeatedly tried without success to block the rules from going into place.
While critics' latest bid to attach anti-net neutrality language to the spectrum bill may have failed, Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., indicated Thursday that he is not likely to let the issue die.
Groups that supported the FCC's network neutrality rules cheered the removal of the anti-net neutrality language from the spectrum bill. "We are also pleased that the conferees deleted language preventing the FCC from implementing even the modest open Internet rules for wireless services," Public Knowledge Legal Director Harold Feld said in a statement Thursday.