Technology

Rep. Stearns trying to block FCC on broadband regulation

Days after Chairman Julius
Genachowski revealed his plan to apply to broadband companies a series
of rules that already govern phone providers, Rep. Cliff Stearns
(R-Fla.) debuted legislation that he hopes will alert lawmakers to the FCC’s “partisan maneuver to regulate the Internet.”

{mosads}The congressman’s
proposal would ultimately require the FCC to prove the economic case
for regulation before imposing those new rules, he noted in a speech Tuesday on
the House floor. He described that requirement as essential, given
Genachowski’s own assurances that the FCC under his stewardship would become a
data-driven agency.

“Well, lets the the data,” Stears said.
“Let’s see the data showing you need regulation
before you do it.”

While Stears’ effort is unlikely to reach the
chamber floor, it already has the support of Reps. Marsha Blackburn
(R-Tenn.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), as well as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.),
who is piloting a similar bill in the Senate.

It also snagged the endorsement of AT&T, also a foe of the FCC’s plans, which praised Stears for introducing “a bill
designed to address the dynamism of the Internet while protecting
consumers from harm.”

“As the FCC proceeds down the path of
regulating the Internet by applying 75 year-old laws developed for the
black rotary telephone we are hopeful that the Congress will take a more
prudent path,” said Tim McKone, AT&T Executive Vice President for
Federal Relations.

“At a time when the telecommunications
industry is one of the few bright spots in this troubled economy, it’s
critical that laws are in place that incent infrastructure investment
and job creation; not over regulatory maneuvers that would create
uncertainty and harm investment, innovation, jobs, and consumers. New
legislation is needed and this is an encouraging first step,” he said.

Republicans
in particular have lambasted the FCC in the week following
Genachowski’s announcement that he would change the way the agency
handles broadband. The FCC embarked on that legal journey exactly one
month after a federal court ruled it did not have explicit authority to
regulate how Internet companies manage their networks.

The FCC has
stressed it needs the new regulations to ensure the successful
implementation of its National Broadband Plan — the agenda it released
per congressional order in March. They also noted their proposal would only set in place rules the commission believed it already had prior to that April court ruling.

But opponents have come to
regard the commission’s plans as merely an effort to institute net
neutrality, the theory that broadband providers should treat all traffic
equally. That belief has prompted some Republican members of Congress,
Stearns included, to challenge the FCC on the grounds it is wrongfully
interfering in private business.

“The FCC’s announcement is a
perfect example of regulation meant to help can actually hurt our policy
goals while taking money out of Americans’ pockets,” the congressman
said, noting the commission’s plan would discourage “investment and
innovation especially when we need it the most.”

Tags John McCain Marsha Blackburn Roy Blunt
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