Hill Threat on Net Neutrality


WASHINGTON — Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House Communications Subcommittee last week threatened to legislate network neutrality if a federal court throws out the FCC’s Open Internet order.

The response of the subcommittee’s chairman? Essentially, good luck.

Cable operators, through the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, did not come out against the order and were even at the table when the compromise rules were hammered out. But the compromise was primarily FCC chairman Julius Genachowski’s decision to back off from the “nuclear option” of classifying Internet access under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, which would bring mandatory access requirements into play.

Verizon Communications has challenged Open Internet rules in federal court and even some advocates of network neutrality have predicted the commission will lose its case.

Should that occur, Eshoo said last week at an annual State of the Net Conference of the Congressional Internet Caucus (she is co-chair), she will introduce a bill to “clarify” the FCC’s power to enforce an open Internet.

That may be a solution in search of a problem, as many industry figures and Congressional Republicans have suggested the FCC’s Open Internet order already is such a clarification.

An FCC source speaking on background confirmed that there have still been no network neutrality complaints filed in the more than a year since the rules took effect.

But the sources said the commission had received some informal complaints about AT&T and FaceTime and had passed those along to AT&T. He pointed out that company’s move to make that app more accessible. As to the FCC’s prospects in the suit, the source said the commission remained confident in its legal arguments was hopeful it would not come to an Eshoo bill.

House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) was sure it wasn’t. He said last week that no bill giving the FCC the authority to regulate the Internet would make it out of the committee on his watch.