Commentary

House Panel Votes To Prevent Net Neutrality Enforcement

Forging ahead with a plan to nix the net neutrality rules, lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee voted 30-20 today to approve a budget bill that prohibits the Federal Communications Commission from enforcing the open Internet regulations.

The measure, which surfaced in a subcommittee last week, would block enforcement until after the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has decided whether the rules are legitimate. Last week, that court rejected a request by AT&T, CenturyLink and trade associations to stay the rules, but hasn't yet decided whether the FCC was authorized to issue the regulations.

The rules, which took effect on Friday, prohibit broadband carriers from blocking or degrading traffic and from charging companies higher fees for prioritized delivery of their material. The regulations also broadly prohibit carriers from impeding consumers and content companies from reaching each other online.

Currently, the House initiative faces some significant hurdles. For one, the Senate doesn't have a comparable provision in its bill. More importantly, President Obama staunchly supports the net neutrality rules.

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Just this week, the White House criticized the budget proposal. “The Administration believes that the Congress should consider appropriations bills free of unrelated ideological provisions,” Shaun Donovan, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said Tuesday in a letter to lawmakers. He added that linking net neutrality -- and other “ideological” issues -- to the budget “threatens to undermine an orderly appropriations process.”

Meanwhile, dozens of advocacy groups including Free Press, the ACLU and Consumers Union are urging House leaders to back away from efforts to block net neutrality rules.

“The FCC’s rules protect consumers and businesses alike against unreasonable and restrictive gatekeeping practices by broadband Internet access service providers,” the groups wrote this week in a letter to the House Appropriations Committee. They add that the provision regarding open Internet regulations is a “direct rebuke to the millions of people that asked for strong Net Neutrality rules.”

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