Post Tech: House panel votes to invalidate net neutrality rules

By Cecilia Kang
Wednesday, March 9, 2011; 6:51 PM

A House panel on Wednesday voted to invalidate Internet access rules created by the Federal Communications Commission. But they will remain in place unless Congress and the president take further action.

In a 15-to-8 vote, the Republican-led House communications and technology subcommittee voted on a bill that nullifies the FCC's so-called net neutrality rules. The bill, which uses the Congressional Review Act to overturn the rules, will now go to the full House Energy and Commerce committee.

Republican and some Democratic lawmakers have criticized the FCC for its first online access regulation that prohibits blocking and discriminatory slowdown of Internet traffic. Committee chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) argued earlier Wednesday at a subcommittee hearing that the regulation would hamper jobs growth in the communications sector.

"If the FCC was truly weighing the costs and benefits of its actions, the agency would not be attempting to regulate the Internet," Upton said in his remarks.

Democrats, meanwhile, said Internet firms such as Netflix and Google say job growth would be hurt without such regulatory protections.

Consumer groups expressed disappointment in the panel's vote. They have advocated for the FCC's net neutrality rules, saying that without them, network operators could block consumers from certain services.

"The commission is in no way regulating the Internet," Gigi Sohn, president of public interest group Public Knowledge said in a statement. "It was merely attempting to return to a modest level of traditional authority needed to safeguard the rights of Internet users."

Analysts have noted that the rules will likely stay in affect despite the House panel vote. Even if the full Hosue passes the bill, it seems less likely to pass the Democratic-controllled Senate. President Obama, who supports the FCC order, would also have to sign off on the bill.

The agency, which declined to comment on the vote, is also being sued in federal court by Verizon Communications and Metro PCS over the regulations.

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