House overturns proposed Internet privacy changes

The House of Representatives voted on Thursday to overturn proposed rules that bar Internet service providers from blocking legal content but give some discretion to ration access for bandwidth hogs.

The vote — which was spearheaded by Republican lawmakers determined to undo a range of Obama administration initiatives — would block funds to implement rules proposed by the Federal Communications Commission in December.

The measure was added as an amendment to a sweeping spending bill that will fund the government for the rest of the current fiscal year.

To become law, the measure would also need to pass the Senate, where Democrats hold a majority, and get President Barack Obama’s signature. No vote has been scheduled for the measure in the Senate.

In debate on Thursday, Republican Representative Steve Scalise said the rule would stand in the way of innovation and kill jobs.

“We think the FCC overstepped their boundaries,” he said. “This is something that should be done and solved in the halls of Congress.”

But Democratic Representative Edward Markey said killing the rule would squash innovation. He said regulators have in the past stepped in to ensure competition — as they did when AT&T fought the sale of telephones made by other companies to replace their black rotary telephones.

“Verizon’s not going to invent anything new. What they want to do is squeeze competitors,” Markey said.

In a lawsuit filed in January against the rule, Verizon Communications argues the FCC overstepped its authority.

In December, the FCC voted 3-2 to ban Internet service providers like Verizon and Comcast Corp from blocking traffic but gave them some discretion to ration access and manage their networks. The FCC’s two Republicans voted against the measure.

The split highlighted a divide between those who say the Internet will flourish without regulation and those who say the power of high-speed Internet providers to discriminate against competitors needs to be restrained.

Verizon filed its complaint with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The same court ruled last year that the FCC lacked the authority to stop Comcast from blocking bandwidth-hogging applications on its broadband network, spurring the agency’s most recent rulemaking effort.

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

Comments are closed.