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Toeing their respective party lines at a House communications subcmte hearing on Wed, lawmakers both lambasted and praised the FCC for its recent net neutrality order, with Republicans arguing the agency overreached and Democrats suggesting it either did the right thing or didn’t go far enough in crafting rules designed to preserve an “open” Internet. Subcmte chmn Greg Walden (R-OR) blasted the action, arguing the FCC’s invocation of sec 706 of the Telecom Act “could be taken to the extreme” by spurring a patchwork of state Internet rules or leading to new oversight of companies like Netflix. Subcmte vice chmn Lee Terry (R-NE) speculated that the FCC could even regulate the price of Internet service under its section 706 justification. GOPers found reliable allies in Republican comrs Robert McDowell and Meredith Baker, both of whom dissented from the net neutrality order and reiterated their views that the FCC exceeded its authority. Democratic comrs, however, said the rules were needed because of several complaints in recent years about ISPs blocking traffic, and FCC chmn Julius Genachowski argued that private business leaders had even told him they needed clear rules to continue to innovate. But Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) pondered why the FCC hasn’t closed its Title II proceeding even after devising rules under Title 1, asking Genachowski under what conditions he would close it. “I’d have to think about that and get back to you,” Genachowski said. (Copps chimed in that it should remain open because of uncertainty created by court challenges… Both McDowell and Baker have publicly predicted the courts will overturn the FCC’s order). Meanwhile, Democrats mostly praised the FCC for acting, with Rep Ed Markey (D-MA) saying “I wish the Commission had gone much further than they did.” The hearing got especially interesting when Rep Anna Eshoo (D-CA) asked McDowell why? if the rules were so bad?would Comcast voluntarily offer to adhere to net neutrality principles as part of the Comcast- NBCU jv approval. “I think they were desperate to get the merger done, and they would have agreed to almost anything,” McDowell said. Eshoo asked him if Comcast execs actually told him that. “That was pretty much the answer I got,” he said, prompting her to ask, “Are you quoting them?” McDowell grinned, clarifying “That’s a paraphrase,” to scattered chuckles in the room.

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