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Republicans to Push Against Net Neutrality

By Cecilia Kang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 21, 2009 2:36 PM

Senate Republicans moved Monday afternoon to prevent the FCC's proposed rules on net neutrality with an amendment to the Interior Appropriations bill that would tie up funding at the agency for new regulatory mandates. Observers said, however, that the move was unlikely to be approved in the Democrat-majority Congress.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), ranking member of Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, said in a release:

"We must tread lightly when it comes to new regulations. Where there have been a handful of questionable actions in the past on the part of a few companies, the Commission and the marketplace have responded swiftly," Hutchison said in the release.

"The case has simply not been made for what amounts to a significant regulatory intervention into a vibrant marketplace. These new regulatory mandates and restrictions could stifle investment incentives," she said. Senators John Ensign (R-Nev.), Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), David Vitter (R-La.), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and John Thune (R-S.D. co-sponsored the amendment.

Rebecca Arbogast, head of technology policy research at Stifel Nicholas, said the move was a standard vehicle for Congress to block what regulatory agencies were trying to achieve in the executive branch or in a regulatory agency. "But the likelihood of it getting passed it pretty low. This is standard procedure and a time-honored tradition but the Republicans are in the minority."

The two Republican commissioners at the five-member FCC issued a joint statement

in response to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's announcement, expressed concern that conclusions have been prematurely drawn about how consumers and businesses are being affected by Web policies.

"We are concerned that both factual and legal conclusions may have been drawn before the process has begun," said Commissioners Robert McDowell and Merideth Baker. "We do not believe that the Commission should adopt regulations based merely on anecdotes, or in an effort to alleviate the political pressures of the day, if the facts do not clearly demonstrate that a problem needs to be remedied."

An official at the agency stressed, however, that Genachowski viewed the proposal as the start of a process to investigate how new rules for the Internet should be approached for different technologies. Some wireless providers have balked at the proposal, with AT&T saying it does not agree that the rules should apply to its giant national wireless network because of capacity constraints. Genachowski said in his speech that the rules would apply to all platforms - which would include wireless - but that such questions would be part of a process that will begin late October to come up with new rules. If approved, final rules could be drawn next spring.

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