Congress Shelves Net Neutrality Proposal

By Cindy Waxer September 30, 2010

The Federal Communications Commission might be one step closer to redefining broadband as a telecommunications service, thereby subjecting it to more sweeping regulations than it currently faces.

That’s due in large part to the House Democrats’ decision to shelve efforts to broker a compromise between phone, cable and Internet companies on rules that would prohibit broadband providers from blocking or degrading online traffic flowing over their networks. House GOP Leader John Boehner (Ohio) announced that he will not support the net-neutrality bill developed by House Energy and Commerce Democrats on Wednesday.

Republicans had opposed House Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman's (D-Calif) proposal which was meant to prevent broadband providers from censoring content and controlling Internet speeds. Waxman abandoned the proposal in the face of Republican opposition to his proposed "network neutrality" rules. Those rules were meant to prevent broadband providers from becoming online gatekeepers by playing favorites with traffic, according to a report by the Associated Press.

For a while there, GOP support for the legislation seemed possible after some phone and cable companies began to push the bill. Industry groups view the proposal as a more palatable alternative to the stricter regulations in the works over at the FCC. "If Congress can't act, the FCC must," Waxman said in a statement. He added that "this development is a loss for consumers."

Internet companies argue that regulations are needed to prevent phone and cable operators from blocking Internet phone calls, online video and other web services that compete with their primary lines of business. Phone and cable companies, on the other hand, argue that they need the flexibility to manage network traffic in order to prevent performance problems such as bandwidth constraints and hogged capacity.

In the past, the Obama administration has backed net neutrality, making it a top campaign pledge to the technology industry. In an interview broadcast on YouTube back in January, President Obama said, “We’re getting pushback, obviously, from some of the bigger carriers who would like to be able to charge more fees and extract more money from wealthier customers. But we think that runs counter to the whole spirit of openness that has made the Internet such a powerful engine for not only economic growth, but also for the generation of ideas and creativity.”

Edited by Erin Harrison

TechZone360 Contributing Editor

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