FCC urged to pause on Internet rules

The Federal Communications Commission would be smart to pause its work on open Internet rules now that Congress has actively joined the fight, GOP commissioner Michael O'Rielly said in a speech Wednesday. 

O'Rielly, who worked on Capitol Hill for years before joining the commission, said there is no need to rush the rules, which he and the other Republican commissioner on the FCC are expected to oppose. 

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"Congress is actively working toward a legislative solution to net neutrality, with hearings taking place today on new bills in the House and the Senate," he said during a speech at the American Enterprise Institute. 

"There are very good reasons for the commission to take a step back and wait for that process to work," he added in prepared remarks. 

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has said he will go ahead with a vote on proposed rules next month. The proposal, which has not been released, is expected to call for reclassifying broadband Internet service so it can be regulated more like traditional telephone service. The agency could use that authority to prevent Internet service providers from blocking and slowing traffic or allowing "fast lane" deals to websites willing to pay a higher price.   

O'Rielly has been warning for months about increased fees on consumers that could come with reclassification. 

Republicans have opposed reclassification and are holding hearings Wednesday on a draft proposal meant to enforce many of the net neutrality rules advocates have supported, while also rolling back some FCC authority over the issue. 

Democrats and other advocates calling for reclassification have largely opposed the legislative move. 

O'Rielly is one in a number of critics who have recently called for the commission to slow down amid congressional action. But most acknowledge that is an unlikely possibility, since Wheeler is expected to release updated rules in the next few weeks. 

The rules have been a year in the making after an appeals court struck down a previous net neutrality order last year. 

"The Commission is a creation of Congress and exists to carry out its laws," he said. "Accordingly, if Congress intends to act, then the Commission must defer to its judgment." 

During his speech, O'Rielly touched on a number of other issues, including criticism of President Obama's push to expand municipal broadband, new online video rules and the FCC's upcoming broadcast incentive auction.