GOP Senators Criticize FCC's Net Neutrality Guidelines

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Senate Republicans criticized FCC Democrats Oct. 13 over proposed guidelines on network openness that they suggest are partisan, unsupported by data and could adversely impact broadband speeds and deployment.

Eighteen Republican Senators -- led by Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and including John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) -- wrote to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski saying that his proposal to codify and expand network-openness guidelines and apply them to wireless broadband appears to be "outcome driven." The charge is a direct challenge to the chairman's avowed policy of letting data drive decisions.

The senators said the chairman's rules "seem to emanate from a fear that there may be some problems related to openness 'in the future," and counter that it would be burdensome and chilling to the private-sector investment they say has been driving choice and competition.

"Such a major policy shift should be contemplated only with all of the FCC commissioners involved," the letter reads. "To do it with just one party reduces the confidence the public and the Congress has in the proposal."

Genachowksi has the backing of his two fellow Democrats and thus the votes to pass the proposed rules, which he plans to introduce at next week's public meeting.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.), ranking member of the Commerce Committee, which oversees communications issues, did not sign on to the letter. But sources say that is because she is working on her own, individual letter that spells out her individual concerns. That letter could be released as early as today.

Senate Republicans have been concerned ever since the chairman announced the proposal at a Brookings Institution speech, including threatening to pass a bill, proposed by Hutchison, to block FCC funding for any new network neutrality rules. But they held off on that legislative gambit after the chairman reached out to them, according to sources on both sides.

House Republicans have also been active on the issue, including asking the FCC to first conduct a market analysis before taking any action.

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