The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday voted to kill network neutrality rules approved by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission in December, with majority Republicans arguing the regulations amounted to a government takeover of the Internet.
The House voted 240-179 largely along party lines to approve a resolution of disapproval that would roll back the FCC regulations. Two Republicans voted against the measure, while six Democrats voted for it.
The FCC's rules would prohibit wired broadband providers from selectively slowing or blocking Web content and applications.
Republicans argued the net neutrality rules aren't needed and would open the door to heavy-handed government regulation of the Internet. "Congress has not authorized the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the Internet," said Representative Greg Walden, an Oregon Republican and main sponsor of the bill. "If not challenged, the FCC's power grab would allow it to regulate any interstate communications service on barely more than a whim and without any additional input from Congress."
President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the legislation, should it pass through the Democratic-controlled Senate. The FCC, in crafting net neutrality rules, sought input from groups on "all sides" of the issue, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said in a position statement this week.
"The Federal Communications Commission's rule reflected a constructive effort to build a consensus around what safeguards and protections were reasonable and necessary to ensure that the Internet continues to attract investment and to spur innovation," the OMB said this week. "Disapproval of the rule would threaten those values and raise questions as to whether innovation on the Internet will be allowed to flourish, consumers will be protected from abuses, and the democratic spirit of the Internet will remain intact."
Some House Democrats questioned why lawmakers were devoting time to the net neutrality issue when the U.S. government faces a shutdown Saturday if Republicans and Democrats can't come to agreement on the federal budget. Democrats also argued the bill would allow broadband providers to block any Web traffic.
"At such a moment of grave threat to our economic health, what are we doing on the floor today?" said Representative Henry Waxman, a California Democrat. "The Republican leadership insists on bringing to the floor a bill that will end the Internet as we know it and threaten the jobs, investment and prosperity the Internet has brought to America. This is an outrageous sense of priorities and policies."
The FCC's net neutrality, or open Internet rules, have widespread support from consumer groups and Web-based companies, said Representative Anna Eshoo, a California Democrat. AT&T and Comcast have opposed the bill, Democrats argued.
But the FCC's actions will hurt the Internet, one of the few bright spots in the U.S. economy, Republicans argued.
"We're here to put the brakes on runaway bureaucracy," said Representative Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican. "The FCC has overstepped its authority and is attempting to seize control of one of the nation's technological success stories."
Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is [email protected]