Post Tech: Net neutrality bill may be dead for this session, sources say

By Cecilia Kang
Wednesday, September 29, 2010; 3:52 PM

A House Democratic push to create a net neutrality bill won't get the Republican support it needs to be introduced this legislative session, according to sources familiar with the effort. That places the issue back at the Federal Communications Commission, where its chairman has proposed to re-assert its questionable regulatory authority over broadband providers to carry out his support of new net neutrality rules.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and his staff have worked feverishly over the past week to craft legislation that would enable to Federal Communications Commission to enforce so-called net neutral guidelines on how Internet service providers provide access to content on their networks. But on Wednesday, key Republicans such as House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Oh) said he wouldn't support the bill that many in his party (and some Democrats) would strap broadband providers with burdensome rules, according to sources.

Waxman had been in talks with Internet service providers, a coalition representing Web content companies such as Google and Skype, and public interest groups. The effort was an attempt to create rules for Internet service providers as the FCC struggles with its regulatory authority over broadband service providers. The bill would prevent the agency from re-asserting its authority over broadband providers, which FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has proposed.

But on Wednesday, sources close to the talks on the Hill said Waxman didn't get the Republican support needed to co-sponsor the bill and help it get through Congress. Even if the talks were successful, it would be difficult to get a bill passed in what is considered a lame duck session after the November midterm elections. Waxman had pushed to introduce a bill during the current session, with the expectation that the elections will change the makeup of the House.

Where does that leave net neutrality? Back at the FCC, which has effectively pushed off until the end of November a decision on its proposal for open access rules. That proposal, introduced in a speech September 2009, will be up for vote at the agency at its Nov. 30 meeting.

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