A top lawmaker on the House Energy and Commerce Committee Wednesday said while he is glad to see U.S. policy makers joining forces to oppose international efforts to regulate the Internet, the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules undermine U.S. credibility on the issue.
"I think there is certain level of hypocrisy" among those who favor net neutrality rules while opposing efforts to regulate the Internet internationally, Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., vice chairman of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, said during a roundtable discussion Wednesday evening sponsored by the Phoenix Center.
Terry, however, was quick to note that he and other Republicans refrained from bringing up net neutrality during a hearing last week on Internet governance before the Communications and Technology Subcommittee in order to present a unified front on the issue to the rest of the world.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle as well as Obama administration officials have voiced concerns that some countries may offer proposals at the International Telecommunication Union's World Conference on International Telecommunications in December that would extend authority over the Internet to the United Nations organization. At the event in Dubai, member governments will consider changes to international telecommunications regulations.
"We wanted to make sure the message we sent to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and others is we are unified on this," Terry said. "So we specifically didn't bring it up" at the hearing.
Congressional Republicans widely opposed the net neutrality rules approved by the FCC in December 2010, which bar broadband companies from discriminating against Internet content. Republicans said the move was an attempt to regulate the Internet. Many Democrats along with public interest groups and some tech firms countered that net neutrality rules are necessary to ensure that broadband providers don't favor some Internet traffic, especially from firms willing to pay a premium for faster delivery, over other kinds of Internet content.
At last week's hearing, Communications and Technology ranking member Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., had a different take on how net neutrality plays into the ITU debate.
"We have had some real battles here over the issue of net neutrality," Eshoo said at the subcommittee hearing. "It seems to me we are calling on the international community for hands off, international net neutrality, as it were, when it comes to the Internet."