Republicans pan FCC reasons for net neutrality rules

A day before House lawmakers put controversial net neutrality rules under scrutiny, leading Republican lawmakers said the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission hasn’t convinced them that the reasons behind the rules were good enough.

In a statement, House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee leaders Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Lee Terry (R-Neb.) said an economic analysis provided by the FCC for its Internet access rules “failed to provide a compelling justification for its power-grab.”

The FCC implemented in December first-time Internet access rules that prevent cable and telecom operators from blocking or arbitrarily slowing traffic on their networks. Republican and some Democratic lawmakers have called the move an overstep for an agency that has debatable authority to regulate broadband services.

Wednesday’s hearing by the Communications and Technology Subcommittee will be the second in the House, where Republican leaders are seeking to hobble the rules. Lawmakers have introduced two bills — one that would overturn the rules and one that would withhold appropriations for the agency — and this hearing will focus on the former. Both bills would have to pass a House and a Senate vote and be signed by President Obama to become law.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a letter to the lawmakers that the lack of competition in the market for broadband service providers justifies regulations that ensure equal access to content. The agency said in its order that the rules were created “because broadband providers have the ability to act as gatekeepers even in the absence of market power with respect to end users.”

It said Internet applications such as Amazon, eBay and Google had characterized Internet access rules as “a critical component of [their] contribution to economic growth.”

Upton, Walden and Terry said in their statement Tuesday that the analysis provided by Genachowski “does little more than summarize the comments of parties and provide conclusory statements.”

Analysts said the hearing Wednesday, which will not include FCC members, will probably not lead to termination of FCC net neutrality rules.

Jeffrey Silva, a telecommunications and media analyst with Medley Global Advisors, said holding the hearing carries political benefits for Republican lawmakers.

“It doesn't hurt to say to the Tea Party members, ‘Look we are really with you on this.’ ” Silva said. “That’s an important thing ahead of elections.”

Related:

House lawmakers face uphill battle on overturning net neutrality

Cecilia Kang is a senior technology correspondent for The Washington Post.

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