House GOP lawmaker makes net neutrality warning

Tough net neutrality rules would lead to new taxes and unnecessary hurdles for new companies, Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnCalifornia companies sued for allegedly selling fetal tissue for profit Race is on for prized House chairmanship GOP struggles to find women to lead House committees MORE (R-Tenn.) warned on Monday.

In an interview on Fox Business Network, Blackburn warned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) against writing strong rules that allowed it to regulate the Internet with the same powers it uses to police traditional phone lines.

“I talk to those innovators every single day,” she said. “They do not want to have to fool with another federal agency. They do not want additional taxes.”

Blackburn, who is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and has been a prominent critic of the FCC’s regulations, pointed to a recent study showing that reclassifying the Web so it could be treated like a utility would lead to $15 billion in new state fees, plus another $2 billion in federal charges. The study has been criticized for not mentioning a federal law that bans state and local taxes on Internet access.    

Instead of having the government write rules banning companies from slowing or blocking access to particular websites, companies should be allowed to cut deals and determine how best to reach their audience, Blackburn said.

“It is called companies finding a way to transact business and not have the federal government mandating how they are going to transact business,” she said. “Let’s leave it to the private sector.”

Supporters of strong rules have worried that weak or no rules would let big companies like Comcast force smaller websites to pay high fees to reach users quickly.

The FCC is working on new net neutrality rules that many people expect will call for some utility-style treatment of the Internet, after a strong public push for the aggressive regulations. The commission is planning to vote on the rules on Feb. 26.