The FCC’s Democrats approved new “network neutrality” rules for the Internet today on a 3-2 party-line vote. The regulations, which have sparked considerable controversy in Washington and nationwide, are designed to ensure that the Internet is not dominated by major telecommunications and cable companies.
The rules prohibit anticompetitive blocking and degrading of competing online services, and are enforceable by the agency. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski insisted his plan creates a "nonideological framework" that would "increase certainty" for investors leery about the lack of rules governing the Web.
But Republicans on the commission and on Capitol Hill say the new restrictions are unnecessary, while some prominent watchdogs complain they don’t go far enough to protect consumers and smaller competitors.
Republican FCC commissioner Robert McDowell dissented, arguing the policy would lead to less investment and jobs lost and “all of this in the name of promoting the exact opposite.” He decried “regulatory hubris” and warned that “the cures for this malady are attainable in court.”
Ahead of the vote, multiple sources told National Journal that Verizon, the nation's second largest telecommunications carrier, may seek to overturn the historic open Internet rules. Sources said the option is on the table, but cautioned that no final decision has been made.
The new House Republican majority will greet the rules next year with investigatory oversight hearings. The goal is to highlight the partisan cast of the vote -- three Democrats to two Republicans -- and portray the rules as meddling in the free market. The GOP is expected to follow up with language limiting net neutrality through riders on spending bills and authorization legislation.