FCC Internet regulation up for House vote Thursday

The House on Thursday is expected to decide whether to prevent the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from spending any money to implement its December decision to regulate the Internet.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) proposed an amendment to the FY 2011 spending bill that would block FCC funding for that purpose. Walden said on the floor that the government has so far had a hands-off approach to the Internet, and said there is "no crisis warranting departure from this approach."

Walden's amendment is a response to the FCC's so-called "net neutrality" initiative, under which the FCC says it will regulate the Internet to ensure that all traffic is treated equally. But Republicans have said the rule is just the beginning of what would turn into a heavy government hand that would stifle job growth and innovation.

Rep. José Serrano (D-N.Y.) argued that the FCC should be able to take some steps to regulate Internet traffic. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) added that the history of telecom companies shows that stagnant monopolies will form in these industries, and FCC regulation will help ensure the same thing does not happen with the Internet.

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) agreed and said the absence of regulations will allow larger companies to carve up online territory and raise costs for consumers. "I think that your disdain for government is spilling over onto the Internet," Eshoo said. "This is so wrong, and it simply says to me that you don't get it."

But many Republicans who took to the floor argued that the amendment is a chance to keep the government away from the Internet.

"Congress must stop the FCC," said Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.).