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Lawmakers to FCC: Stop mulling net neutrality reclassification

Some Republican House members question the need for the FCC to move forward with any net neutrality rules

By Grant Gross
May 20, 2014 03:49 PM ET

IDG News Service - Republican legislators don't even want the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to think about reclassifying broadband as a utility -- a route the regulator could take in order to reinstate net neutrality rules.

New regulations would hurt broadband deployment, several Republican members of the House of Representatives said.

Several Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee called on FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to drop all efforts to reinstate net neutrality rules, including his proposal that would not rely on regulating broadband as a common-carrier utility service.

Net neutrality rules would be "nothing more than a price control" for broadband, U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, a Kansas Republican, said to Wheeler during a Tuesday hearing. "It's a very dangerous path that you're headed down."

Other Republicans focused most of their ire on calls by some Internet users and digital rights groups to reclassify broadband under traditional common-carrier telecom regulations in Title II of the Telecommunications Act after a U.S. appeals court threw out the FCC's old net neutrality rules in January.

The FCC's net neutrality notice, released last week, "tees up the long-dead idea that the Internet is a common carrier," said Rep. Greg Walden, an Oregon Republican and chairman of the committee's communications subcommittee.

Common-carrier regulations were focused on a monopoly telecom carrier and "harken back to a world in which twisted copper was the only portal for consumers to the communications network and voice was the only service," Walden added.

Advocates of Title II reclassification say it would put the FCC on a solid regulatory footing for prohibiting broadband providers from selectively slowing Web content or charging Web content producers for prioritized traffic. Some advocates of strong net neutrality rules, including digital rights groups Free Press and Public Knowledge and members of Reddit, have criticized Wheeler's alternative approach that would allow broadband providers to engage in "commercially reasonable" traffic management.

Rep. Bob Latta, an Ohio Republican, said he plans to introduce legislation that would prohibit the FCC from reclassifying broadband under Title II.

Wheeler defended the FCC notice, saying it merely asks for public input on the best way to reinstate net neutrality rules after the appeals court ruling in January. His approach, he said, would follow a "roadmap" laid out by the court opinion that would allow net neutrality rules under a section of the Telecom Act that encourages broadband deployment, instead of reclassifying.

The current debate over how to enforce net neutrality rules is "very healthy," Wheeler said. "There are two diametrically opposed positions. One is, you should not do anything, and the other is, it should go all the way to be regulated like a public utility."

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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