House Votes to Undo Net Neutrality Rules

April 9, 2011

By Ryan Singel, Wired

The House of Representatives voted Friday to overturn net neutrality rules created by the FCC in December.

The vote, which fell mostly along partisan lines with 234 Republicans and 6 Democrats voting yes, and 177 Democrats and 2 Republicans voting no. The short bill relies on Congress’s authority to override regulatory agencies, rather than revoking funding for the FCC.

The vote is largely symbolic, however, because President Obama has promised to veto any legislation reversing the rules. Open internet rules were part of Obama’s platform, and many of his supporters have criticized the new rules for not being strong enough. But there remains a possibility a similar provision could be instated as a “rider” in the funding bill that must be passed before the end of the day if a government shutdown is to be averted.

The FCC’s net neutrality rules prohibit cable, fiber and DSL broadband companies from blocking websites, allow users to use the software and devices of their choice, and require companies to be transparent if they use traffic-management software. Mobile-internet companies would have to abide by a lesser standard, but are prohibited from blocking VOIP applications like Skype or video services like YouTube or Netflix that compete with their own offerings.

The rules, which have not yet gone into effect, satisfied few — as the FCC attempted to find a middle ground that would be acceptable to all, including House Republicans. The rules clearly failed on that latter account.

Republicans say the FCC’s rules would stifle broadband investment and amount to an unprecedented regulation of the internet, though the rules are largely the same as the ones put into effect by the Bush administration’s FCC in 2005. Those rules were thrown out in court in 2010, on the grounds the FCC hadn’t built them on proper legal authority.

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