Cantor slams net neutrality as example of 'imperial presidency'

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Obama mentioned support for net neutrality rules — the principle that Internet service providers should not be able to restrict access to websites based on their own business interests — during his 2008 run for the White House.

Supporters of net neutrality say it preserves competition and consumer choice, but Cantor and other Republicans argue it is an unnecessary burden on businesses and amounts to government control of the Internet.

The Federal Communications Commission, an independent executive agency, first tried to enforce the principle of net neutrality against Comcast in 2010, but a federal court ruled that the agency lacked the legal authority to take action.

In his report, Cantor notes that then-chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) introduced legislation to provide the FCC with the authority to set net-neutrality rules, but the bill was never enacted.

In late 2010, the FCC adopted formal net-neutrality rules. The order prohibits Internet service providers from discriminating against legitimate websites and bars wireless carriers from blocking apps that compete with their own services.

The FCC argues that it has the authority to enforce net-neutrality regulations because Title I of the Communications Act gives it the power to regulate "information services."

But Verizon has sued to overturn the regulations, arguing that the FCC overstepped its limited authority under Title I.

"Despite the fact that the legislation was not enacted, the FCC proceeded anyway with new net neutrality rules," Cantor wrote in his report. "Businesses negatively impacted by these new regulations have been forced to go to court once again to defend against regulations that the agency has no authority to issue."

He noted that in April, the House passed a resolution to repeal the FCC's order. Cantor said the resolution would overturn "controversial internet rules that stifle small business growth and investment in order to promote freedom and innovation." 

The measure was defeated in the Senate on a party-line vote.