Barton To FCC: Go Slower On Net Neutrality


Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) Tuesday evening asked the FCC to "halt" its network neutrality rulemaking.

In one of a flood of letters from the Hill, lobbyists, think tanks, nonprofits on the FCC's almost-proposed new network neutrality regulations, the ranking member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee said reports of the contents of the proposal "raise serious issues as to potentially catastrophic effects on investment in and deployment of broadband services."

He cited the "rigid rule of nondiscrimination" and the application of rules to the "capacity-constrained" wireless sector as reasons for concern. The chairman is proposing adding a nondiscrimination principle, for one, and codifying all the principles into rules. He also wants to apply them to wireless broadband, though has also said it would not be a one-size-fits-both approach to wireless and wired services.

Barton suggested proposing rulemaking might not the be the best way to go. "At the very least, a more prudent path would be to abandon the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in favor of a Notice of Inquiry," he said, "which would allow the Commission to collect data related to broadband usage at a deliberate pace without the potentially stifling effect the proposed rules could have on investment in the broadband sector."

The FCC has already conducted a network neutrality inquiry --  launched in April 2007 --under then FCC chairman Kevin Martin. The inquiry was meant "to enhance [the FCC's] understanding of the nature of the market for broadband and related services, whether network platform providers and others favor or disfavor particular content, how consumers are affected by these policies, and whether consumer choice of broadband providers is sufficient to ensure that all such policies ultimately benefit consumers."

Look for the FCC to reference that docket in its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Thursday (Oct. 22).