GOP Senators Call For Financial Assessment Of Neutrality Regs

Republicans in the Senate almost certainly don't have enough support from their Democratic colleagues to block the Federal Communications Commission's neutrality rules. But that isn't stopping GOP lawmakers from continuing to voice their unhappiness with the rules.

In their latest anti-neutrality initiative, 11 GOP members of the Senate Commerce Committee have sent a letter to the FCC asking for an economic analysis of the open Internet rules passed last December.

President Barack Obama recently asked agencies to assess the financial impact of regulations. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and 10 of her colleagues now say that the FCC should conduct such an analysis retroactively. "We concur that each executive and independent agency should propose or adopt a regulation only upon a reasoned determination that its benefits justify the cost," the letter states. The lawmakers add that had the FCC done such an analysis it "would have made a more informed decision.

Of course, as a practical matter the FCC isn't likely to start revisiting the issue now, seven months after voting to enact the regulations. But even if the agency had done the type of cost-benefit analysis requested, it's likely the FCC would have found that the regulations were warranted -- especially because they largely preserved the status quo.

The FCC's rules ban broadband providers from blocking or degrading content and apps, and also ban wireline providers (but not wireless companies) from engaging in unreasonable discrimination. Since Internet service providers already largely follow those principles, the regulations themselves don't appear to impose any new compliance costs on the carriers.

Yes, perhaps ISPs could make more money if they operated in a world without any neutrality constraints, but then again, they could also incur losses if consumers abandoned their providers because they stopped putting through certain traffic. Either way, those potential financial consequences seem so speculative that no cost-benefit analysis could realistically assess them.

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