House Energy & Commerce Committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said Wednesday that he did not "close the door" on coming up with a bipartisan network neutrality bill after the elections, but made it clear that introducing a bill beforehand, which had been the goal of top committee Democrats and cable and telco industry players, was not
After ranking committee member Joe Barton (R-Tex.) issued a statement saying Republicans were not on board with the attempt at a bipartisan bill, Waxman followed with his statement that the bill was predicated on full
bipartisan support in the committee.
"With great regret, I must report that Ranking Member Barton has informed me that support for this legislation
will not be forthcoming at this time," he said, calling it a "loss for consumers and a gain only for the
Waxman called the bill, which would have had a two-year sunset, an interim measure while Congress considered a
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski has proposed reclassifying Internet access as a Title II telecommunications service to clarify the FCC's authority to oversee Internet openness, including expanding and codifying its network neutrality principles. That authority came into question after a D.C. appeals court ruled in the BitTorrent decision that the FCC had not justified its regulatory authority over Comcast's blocking of peer-to-peer file uploads.
While there may not be a bill to signal Genachowski on what he should do with reclassification,
Waxman sent his own signal. "If our efforts to find bipartisan consensus fail, the FCC should move forward under
Title II," he said in his statement. It was not clear whether that was a charge to reclassify immediately, given
ther present failure, or eventually if further post-election efforts at consensus fail. A spokesperson for the
chairman had not weighed in at press time, but network neutrality fan Public Knowledge saw it as the former: ""We
are in full agreement with Chairman Waxman that the FCC must act now to protect consumers by reinstating its
authority over broadband," said Public Knowledge president Gigi Sohn. "We expect the FCC to do so to carry out one of the fundamental promises of the Obama Administration."
Barton had said Republican leadership had failed to come to a consensus, and in his own statement likened the bill
to "punting [on the issue] with a halfway measure two days before the end of Congress.
But Rep. Rick Boucher's statement suggested Barton had been much more sanguine on legislation.
"Earlier this week, I could not have been more pleased that after sustained negotiations in my office, at the FCC
and with Chairman Waxman and Ranking Members Barton and [ranking Communications Subcommittee member Cliff] Stearns, stakeholders at long last reached agreement on targeted legislation to address network openness.
This legislation would have assured network openness protections for the millions of Americans who rely on the
Internet for communications, commerce and entertainment on a daily basis. It would have ensured that Internet
users would continue to be able to reach the lawful Internet content, applications and services of their choice
and that network operators not unfairly discriminate among Internet services. It would also have ensured that
users would be able to reach the content they desire on mobile devices, while recognizing that the wireless
Internet space is still evolving. And the measure would have ensured transparency on the Internet, by requiring
broadband providers to disclose accurate information in plain language about the price and performance of and
network management used by their networks," he said.
"I am disappointed that we were unable to introduce the Open Internet Act of 2010 on a bipartisan basis. The
measure would have been a significant step forward for the Internet community, and I remain willing to work with
my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to enact it into law later this year."
Mark Cooper of the Consumer Federation of America said in a statement that the bill would have "created an important safety net to prevent the broadband Internet access landscape from being balkanized by anti-competitive pay walls and discriminatory technology barriers that block or degrade communications."
But now that the bill has failed to materialize he agreed with Sohn that the FCC should "move aggressively" to re-establish jurisdiction.