Blackburn: Obama hypocritical on Internet control

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) criticized the Obama administration for praising a “multistakeholder” approach to Internet governance while pushing for rules that would place limits on Internet providers’ business models.

“We are not setting a good example,” Blackburn, vice chairwoman of the House Commerce Committee, said Wednesday during a hearing held by the House Commerce subcommittee on Technology.

{mosads}Wednesday’s hearing comes after the Commerce Department announced last month that it would begin a process to relinquish control of its oversight role of the technical side of the Internet’s Web address system.

While some say the move could open the door for oppressive governments to impose restrictions on the open Internet, the administration has said the move will lead to an Internet managed with input from global stakeholders.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Blackburn questioned how the administration could push for Internet governance by global stakeholders through the Commerce Department while the Federal Communications Commission, an independent agency that regulates telecommunications, attempts to rewrite its net neutrality rules.

Those rules kept Internet providers from slowing or blocking access to certain websites before they were struck down by a federal court earlier this year. The agency is in the process of rewriting those rules under a different legal justification.

Net neutrality proponents say the rules are needed to keep the Internet open, but critics — including Blackburn, who has been aggressive in her disapproval of the agency — say the rules are a form of Internet regulation that prevent Internet providers from pursuing innovative business methods.

“There is such a low level of trust with this administration” and its stance on the open Internet, Blackburn said.

“What kind of message is this administration sending if the FCC continues to push forward with regulation of the Internet and net neutrality standards?” she asked.

If the administration wants to proceed with its plans to relinquish its oversight of the technical Web address system, it “must immediately begin to end net neutrality proceedings,” she said.

Witnesses, including Lawrence Strickling, head of the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, said the best way for the administration to support an open Internet is to move forward with relinquishing its current oversight role.

Blackburn is a co-sponsor of the Domain Openness Through Continued Oversight Matters Act. That bill would prevent the Commerce Department from its proposed transition until the Government Accountability Office completes a congressional review of the potential outcomes. 

Tags Federal Communications Commission Internet governance Marsha Blackburn National Telecommunications and Information Administration Network neutrality
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