Commentary

GOP: No Justification For FCC 'Power Grab'

Republicans in the House Energy Committee are stepping up the rhetoric against the Federal Communications Commission's new neutrality rules in advance of tomorrow's hearing about whether the regulations should be vacated.

"Over the last several months, the FCC has failed to provide a compelling justification for its power-grab," Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore) said today in a statement. "The truth is imposing these rules will cause more harm than good by stifling innovation, investments and jobs."

The Republican leaders' remarks were in response to a letter sent Monday by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski explaining the market conditions that led to the FCC's open Internet order. Genachowski pointed to several factors. First, he said, many consumers have only one choice of broadband providers and "the substantial majority have at most two options." What's more, even when people have two options, "the switching costs may be high."

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In other words, if a consumer's ISP starts blocking content, that user might not be able to easily change providers and receive the content he or she is looking for.

Secondly, Web companies including Amazon, Facebook and Google, have said that their businesses rely on the open Internet principles that broadband providers have historically followed. Additionally, Genachowski wrote, start-ups benefit from neutrality rules because they ensure "that barriers to innovation and entry online remain low."

The rules themselves ban broadband providers from blocking content or applications and prohibit wireline providers from engaging in unreasonable discrimination. For all of the opposition in the House, many neutrality advocates were disappointed with those regulations, which they said didn't go far enough to protect consumers from arbitrary decisions by ISPs.

Regardless, given Republicans' fierce opposition to the neutrality rules, the House seems likely to vote to vacate them regardless. Even so, the vote won't have any impact unless the Senate also passes a similar measure and President Barack Obama signs off on it, neither of which appears likely.

2 comments about "GOP: No Justification For FCC 'Power Grab'".
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  1. Darren Davis from Artisan News Service, March 8, 2011 at 9:18 p.m.

    The rules don't go far enough. The FCC should reclassify broadband to allow for abuse. For instance, if we operated without partners and wanted to distribute our video interviews and stories, any ISP could theoretically block our content for competitive reasons, effectively creating a cartel-like structure. This would put little guys, and independent guys like us, out of business.

  2. Robert Repas from Machine Design Magazine, March 9, 2011 at 11:30 a.m.

    I've yet to hear the GOP's justification as to why the Net Neutrality rules should be vacated. They keep repeating "stifling innovation, investments and jobs" without actually explaining how it will do that. On the contrary, without Net Neutrality in place, ISP's can block access to anything through their system, whether it belongs to them or not. That is far more stifling to innovation, investments, and jobs then anything the Republicans can dream up to oppose the rules. They're just repeating what they've been told by their big business telecom partners, just like they did when the Republican commissioners in the FCC reclassified the Internet as an information service. It's as much an "information service" as is the telephone, radio, and television -- in other words, it's a communication service, it's always been a communication service from its inception, and no amount of legal hokey-pokey will change that fact. It should never have been removed from Title II.

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