FCC chief, GOP spar on ‘Net neu­tral­ity’ at Hill hear­ing

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY DAVID ELDRIDGE

Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion Chair­man Julius Ge­na­chowski on May 5 of­fered a strong de­fense of his agency’s new In­ter­net traf­fic reg­u­la­tions, telling skep­ti­cal Repub­li­can lawmakers that ex­ist­ing laws were not strong enough to po­lice the large firms that op­er­ate the Web’s in­fra­struc­ture.

“In my view, while crit­i­cally im­por­tant, an­titrust laws alone would not ad­e­quately pre­serve the free­dom and open­ness of the In­ter­net,” the FCC chief told a House Ju­di­ciary sub­com­mit­tee on the hot-but­ton is­sue of “net neu­tral­ity.”

The is­sue has led to sharp dis­putes be­tween ma­jor users of the Web and the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions gi­ants — such as AT&T, Com­cast and Verizon — that build and main­tain the ba­sic wiring un­der­ly­ing the global in­for­ma­tion net­work.

Led by Rep. Bob Good­latte, Vir­ginia Repub­li­can, GOP lawmakers at the hear­ing ques­tioned whether the new rules pushed through by Mr. Ge­na­chowski usurp con­gres­sional au­thor­ity and fed­eral an­titrust laws.

Mr. Good­latte, who chairs the House Ju­di­ciary panel that over­sees In­ter­net is­sues, said the FCC had over­stepped its chowski’s FCC had the au­thor­ity to tell In­ter­net providers how to man­age their net­works.

“You sell [spec­trum], and then you want to tell them how to use it,” the Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can said.

Robert M. McDow­ell, one of the two Repub­li­can ap­pointees on the com­mis­sion who voted against the FCC’s so-called “Open Rules of the Road” for the In­ter­net, warned that the reg­u­la­tions threaten to sti­fle in­no­va­tion in the tech sec­tor of the Amer­i­can econ­omy. The net-neu­tral­ity rules will “dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fect smaller com­pa­nies, who will have to bear the ad­ju­di­ca­tion costs,” he said. “Noth­ing is bro­ken [. . . ] that needs fix­ing.”

bounds.

“I be­lieve a light-touch, an­titrust-based ap­proach will best pro­tect a com­pet­i­tive, in­no­va­tive and open In­ter­net,” he said May 5.

Rep. Dar­rell E. Issa ques­tioned whether Mr. Gena-

On a largely party-line vote last month, the House voted 240179 to re­peal the FCC reg­u­la­tions, but the agency has the sup­port of the Demo­crat-con­trolled Se­nate and of Pres­i­dent Obama, who ap­pointed Mr. Ge­na­chowski.

Mr. Ge­na­chowski said the new reg­u­la­tions, ap­proved in De­cem­ber, are nec­es­sary.

An­titrust en­force­ment, he ar­gued, “is ex­pen­sive to pur­sue, takes a long time, and kicks in only af­ter dam­age is done.”

Robert M. McDow­ell, one of the two Repub­li­can ap­pointees on the com­mis­sion who voted against the FCC’s so-called “Open Rules of the Road” for the In­ter­net, warned that the reg­u­la­tions threaten to sti­fle in­no­va­tion in the tech sec­tor of the Amer­i­can econ­omy.

The net-neu­tral­ity rules will “dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fect smaller com­pa­nies, who will have to bear the ad­ju­di­ca­tion costs,” he said. “Noth­ing is bro­ken [. . . ] that needs fix­ing.”

Net neu­tral­ity, which Mr. Obama cam­paigned on be­fore the 2008 elec­tions, is de­signed to pre­vent the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions gi­ants from us­ing their gate­keeper sta­tus to im­pede the busi­ness of their com­peti­tors, from Web pow­ers such as Google down to small startup In­ter­net busi­nesses.

But Repub­li­cans have called the new reg­u­la­tions a fed­eral power grab and a “so­lu­tion in search of a prob­lem.”

Many in the in­dus­try have sup­ported the rules, which pro­po­nents have cast as a com­pro­mise that pro­tects the ac­cess of en­trepreneurs and con­tent providers, like Net­flix, while pro­vid­ing the flex­i­bil­ity tele­coms need to man­age traf­fic on their net­works.

But the rules are be­ing chal­lenged by Verizon, which has said it will fight net neu­tral­ity in court.

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