Republicans question why Google, Skype were shielded from net neutrality

Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee are concerned that the FCC has picked "winners and losers" on the Internet by shielding companies such as Google and Skype from net-neutrality regulations.

A GOP briefing memo obtained by The Hill criticizes the agency for its choice to regulate Internet providers while leaving out Internet companies who send apps and other content over broadband lines. 

"If the mere threat of Internet discrimination is such a concern, and if the FCC has done no analysis to demonstrate why one company has more market power than another, why would discrimination by companies like Google or Skype be any more acceptable than discrimination by companies like AT&T and Comcast?" the memo asks. 

The memo notes that many believe the FCC took its action for political purposes. The FCC "just selectively applied the rules to broadband providers, shielding web companies," according to the memo.

"Is it any wonder that 56 percent of those polled by Rasmussen believe the FCC will use the network neutrality rules to accomplish a political agenda?"

The memo stresses that innovation is important "at the edge and the core" of the Internet, referring to both Internet companies and service providers.

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Internet companies including Google contend that the regulations should only apply to phone and cable companies. They say questions about regulating gatekeepers and ensuring access to content are not appropriate in the competitive landscape of online services.

The memo also questions the legal authority cited by the FCC in its net neutrality ruling.

"If left unchallenged the FCC's theory of authority for this power grab would allow it to regulate almost any interstate communications service on barely more than a whim and without congressional input," the memo says. 

Meanwhile, the rules themselves "micromanage" the Internet, according to the memo. (Scroll to the end for the memo's description of the rules).

The document goes way back to the beginning of Internet, waging that deregulatory policies have helped it thrive. 

It notes that FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski backed net neutrality regulations as a plank in President Obama's campaign. "By September 2009, Genachowski was FCC chairman and had announced plans to codify the principles as rules," the memo says. 

It also notes that the FCC under former Republican Chairman Kevin Martin took the first net-neutrality action.  When he released net-neutrality principles, "he emphasized … that policy statements 'do not establish rules nor are they enforceable documents,'" the memo says.

The memo continues: "Three years later, he nonetheless sought to enforce the principles against Comcast — many believe as retribution for its opposition to his attempts to impose a la carte pricing on the cable industry."

All five FCC voters are slated to testify at the Wednesday hearing. 

Here is the memo's description of the rules:

The rules: 1) micromanage how fixed and mobile broadband providers disclose their

network management practices, performance characteristics, and terms of service; 2) prohibit

fixed broadband providers from blocking lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful

devices; 3) prohibit mobile broadband providers from blocking lawful websites, or from

blocking applications that compete with their voice or video telephony services; 4) authorize the

FCC to sit in judgment over whether fixed broadband providers’ transmission of network traffic

is unreasonably discriminatory; and 5) authorize the FCC to sit in judgment over whether fixed

and mobile broadband providers’ network management techniques are reasonable.