News

Republicans Taking Aim at FCC Rules

1/10/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

Washington — House
Republicans took over last
week determined to overturn
healthcare, but also
with an eye toward overturning
the Federal Communications
Commission’s
network-neutrality
rules.

While that’s unlikely, given
a Democratic Senate
and a president who publicly
praised the FCC’s Dec.
21 expansion and codification
of network-neutrality
guidelines, Republicans
were following through on
their promise to review existing
regulations, including
net neutrality, and will
be hauling the agency commissioners
in front of various
committees and likely
conducting investigations.

There were also a number
of Democrats who last year
argued that the FCC should defer to Congress for guidance
on its network-neutrality regulations. But with the collapse
of a Democrat-led bill, high-profile senators — including Jay
Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairs of
the Senate Commerce Committee and Communications
Subcommittee, respectively — supported the FCC’s rulemaking.

The Tea Party movement, which helped elect a number of
the Republicans now in the majority, have taken renewed
aim at the FCC rules as well. In a Dec. 30 e-mail, website
TeaParty.org asked Tea Party supporters to contact the
new Congress and advise members to “stop the government
from ruling the Internet,” according to a blog posting
on the Tea Party by Public
Knowledge.

But Congress is already listening.
On the first day of the
new Congress, Rep. Marsha
Blackburn, who last month
compared the FCC to a lifeblood-
sucking vampire at the
throat of the Internet, put her
stake in the ground, if not yet
in the agency.

The bill — which has more
than 60 co-signers, including
the majority of House
Republicans — would invalidate
the FCC’s network-neutrality
regulations, which a
3-2 Democratic majority approved
Dec. 21, in the face of
promises by Blackburn and
others that they would try to
block it legislatively.

“The FCC’s Christmasweek
Internet grab points
out how important it is that
we pass this bill quickly,”
she said in announcing the
bills. “The only sector of our
economy showing growth is online. In these times, for an
unelected bureaucracy with dubious jurisdiction and misplaced
motives to unilaterally regulate that growth is intolerable.”

Blackburn recognizes that getting such a bill through
Congress will take time. She called it an intermediate step,
and backed the more-immediate move of invoking the Congressional
Review Act.

The FCC regulations are not yet in effect and won’t be for
at least a few more months, since the agency has set an effective
date of 60 days after the Office of Management and
Budget determines that the rules don’t run afoul of the Paperwork
Reduction Act.

The new chairman of the House Energy & Commerce
Committee, Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), has pledged to try
to overturn the regulations as well, and at a minimum will
hold a series of hearings starting this month. An aide said
there was no word yet on dates for that effort, but Upton was
busy late last week focusing on bringing a bill to the floor to
repeal the Obama health-care bill.

November

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