Rep. Blackburn says net neutrality is a 'naked power grab'

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) is promising to fight any "naked power grab disguised by the warm and fuzzy term 'net neutrality.'"

In an op-ed published Wednesday in The Tennesean newspaper, the congresswoman stressed a D.C. federal appeals court was correct to rule last week that the FCC lacks explicit congressional authority to regulate broadband providers.

While Blackburn later said some framework is necessary to end the "current uncertainty" surrounding federal Web rules, the congresswoman stressed that too much federal regulation would instead stifle innovation.

She also predicted any forthcoming attempt to institute net neutrality, as some Democrats in Congress and on the FCC hope to do, would mean "government would be picking winners and losers," which she said would be "fraught with constitutional implications."

"In reality, the very freedoms we enjoy there exist because the 'Net is a regulation-free zone," wrote Blackburn,  who sits on the House subcommittee that handles Web issues. "If we are to maintain the freedom of innovation, we must also main the freedom from regulation." "If we are to maintain the freedom of innovation, we must also main the freedom from regulation."

If anything, Blackburn's remarks on Wednesday indicate the likely intensity of the coming net neutrality debate.

Already, top lawmakers whose committees handle broadband disputes have eked out positions in the fight over whether the FCC should have a say in how broadband providers handle Web traffic.

On the same day Blackburn penned her op-ed, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) signaled he might spearhead his chamber's effort to legislate net neutrality into law. And just hours earlier, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) implored the FCC to use its own rule-making powers to re-classify broadband as a "telecommunications service," over which the commission would have chief stewardship.

Among those opposing their efforts are Blackburn and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who are spearheading a newly introduced bill that would block the FCC from instituting strict net neutrality rules. So too are the telecommunications companies -- including AT&T, Comcast and Verizon -- threatening legal action if the FCC pursues re-classification, as Democrats desire.

Consequently, Blackburn hinted in her op-ed that those firms should continue fighting in the coming weeks to ensure Congress does not robustly expand the FCC's now-limited broadband powers.

"The broadband industry has a finite opportunity before Congress issues that final word," she wrote. "Unless ISPs create a robust, self-policing structure to assure the public that the Internet is an open marketplace where property rights, both material and intellectual, can be enforced, they invite the kind of regulation I know will stifle future growth."