House Democrats shelve net neutrality proposal

Sep 30, 2010 By JOELLE TESSLER , AP Technology Writer

House Democrats have shelved a last-ditch effort 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 Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., abandoned the effort late Wednesday in the face of Republican opposition to his proposed "" rules. Those rules were intended to prevent providers from becoming online gatekeepers by playing favorites with traffic.

The battle over has pitted groups and Internet companies such as Inc. and against the nation's big phone and cable companies, including AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp.

Public interest groups and Internet companies say regulations are needed to prevent phone and cable operators from slowing or blocking Internet phone calls, online video and other Web services that compete with their core businesses. They also want rules to ensure that broadband companies cannot favor their own online traffic or the traffic of business partners that can pay for priority access.

But the phone and cable companies insist they need flexibility to manage network traffic so that high-bandwidth applications don't hog capacity and slow down their systems. They say this is particularly true for wireless networks, which have more bandwidth constraints than wired systems. The communications companies also argue that after spending billions to upgrade their networks for broadband, they need to be able earn a healthy return by offering premium services. Burdensome net neutrality rules, they say, would discourage future investments.

Waxman's proposal, the product of weeks of negotiations, attempted to carve out a middle ground by prohibiting Internet traffic discrimination over wireline networks while giving broadband providers more leeway when it comes to managing traffic on wireless networks. The plan would have given the Federal Communications Commission authority to impose fines of up to $2 million for net-neutrality violations.

For the broadband companies, Waxman's retreat is a setback. They fear the issue could now go back to the FCC, which deadlocked over the matter in August. The commission could impose more restrictive rules on the industry than a House compromise would have.

"If Congress can't act, the FCC must," Waxman said in a statement. He added that "this development is a loss for consumers."

Net neutrality was the Obama administration's top campaign pledge to the technology industry and a major priority of the current FCC chairman, Julius Genachowski, a key architect of Obama's technology platform. But frustration is growing - particularly among public interest groups - as the debate has dragged on over the past year without resolution either at the FCC or in Congress.

Waxman's proposal, in part, fell victim to today's political climate, with Republicans hoping to rack up gains in the upcoming midterm elections apparently unwilling to help Democrats make progress on such a contentious issue. With an anti-government, anti-regulation sentiment sweeping the nation - and boosting Tea Party candidates - Republicans also were reluctant to support a proposal that opponents equate to regulating the Internet.

Yet in what would have been a big victory for the phone and cable companies, Waxman's proposal would have headed off an effort by Genachowski to redefine broadband as a telecommunications service subject to "common carrier" obligations to treat all traffic equally.

The FCC has been trying to craft a new framework for regulating broadband since a federal appeals court in April threw out its current approach, which treats broadband as a lightly regulated "information service." The agency had argued that this approach gave it ample jurisdiction to mandate net neutrality.

But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected that argument. It ruled that the agency had overstepped its authority when it ordered Comcast to stop blocking subscribers from using an online file-sharing service called BitTorrent to swap movies and other big files.

With Congress making no progress to resolve this issue, several public interest groups on Wednesday called on Genachowski to move ahead with his proposal to reclassify broadband as a telecom service.

"The FCC must act now to protect consumers by reinstating its authority over broadband," Gigi Sohn, president of the public interest group Public Knowledge, said in a statement. "We expect the FCC to do so to carry out one of the fundamental promises of the Obama administration."

But Joe Barton of Texas, the top Republican on the House Commerce Committee, said Genachowski's proposal would "stifle investment and create regulatory overhang in one of the most dynamic sectors of our economy."

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User comments : 7

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StarDust21
4 / 5 (6) Sep 30, 2010
Wtf is the problem with republicans why are they so retarded for fuck sake...they are against science and technologies which is what made america so great and mighty...
AkiBola
3 / 5 (3) Sep 30, 2010
I don't think it's a democrat versus republican thing. After all, it is the Obama administration that has refocused NASA to have as its #1 priority outreach to the Islamic world so they feel better about themselves. It's all about the $'s and who can buy the best politicians. The US has about the most expensive broadband access of any developed nation, and that's not because it costs more to provide. Corporate welfare is alive and well, no matter who is running the circus we like to call Congress. Science, don't make me laugh as I fill my tank with gas containing 10% ethanol.
Skepticus_Rex
2.7 / 5 (3) Sep 30, 2010
It's kind of hard to want to cooperate with people who've locked you out of committees so you are unaware of what is going on until it is time to vote on the legislation.

We can blame Pelosi and Reid for that. Or, does no one else any longer remember Pelosi's infamous "Marshal Law" speech? Time to vote them all out and start over.
lengould100
5 / 5 (1) Sep 30, 2010
locked you out of committees so you are unaware of what is going on until it is time to vote on the legislation.
Wait a minute. Isn't that the precise description of the Gingrich Republicans during the past three administration?

Talk about pot calling kettle black....
Skepticus_Rex
3.5 / 5 (2) Sep 30, 2010
Not that I am aware of...but it really does not matter. ALL OF THEM NEED TO BE FLUSHED...
MaxwellsDemon
5 / 5 (1) Oct 01, 2010
ALL OF THEM NEED TO BE FLUSHED...

What makes you think that the next batch of special interest lap dogs will be better, not worse? Haven’t we learned yet that knee-jerk reactions only sink us deeper into political quicksand?

What we need is more than >talk< about terms limits in the House and Senate (because the current system has allowed a de facto ruling class to thrive…which is exactly what the Fathers –didn’t- want to happen), and campaign finance reform (so we’re given better choices at election time – because the choice between ‘corporate puppet R’ and ‘corporate puppet D’ has obviously proven to be catastrophic for the people of our country.
Skepticus_Rex
not rated yet Oct 01, 2010
If they aren't much better, flush them all out, too. Keep doing it until we get some real results. Keep those in who actually make efforts not to be lapdogs and flush the rest.

Another alternative is for all of America to vote Independent and forget ever electing Rs and Ds to office again. The only way they are going to learn is if all of America sends the message that not another Democrat or Republican will be voted for until they clean up their acts and actually represent their constituents as they are supposed to do.