Date with the FCC: House Halts Funding for Net Neutrality Rules

March 4, 2011

Familiar battle lines have been drawn in Washington during recent  hearings (157 Cong. Rec. H1081-01) over new FCC net neutrality rules.  On one side, Congressional Republicans decried the rules as an unnecessary government intrusion into an internet economy doing fine on its own. On the other side, House Democrats argued the need for rules preventing big service providers from using a paid prioritization system of internet access, thus squeezing out smaller companies who would not be able to compete.

Ultimately, the House agreed to withhold funding (2011 Cong US HR 1) of any FCC action on the rules until further debate.

The  new rules, (2010 WL 5281676) adopted by the FCC in December with a narrow 3-2 vote, are aimed at preventing large companies that provide high-speed Internet service from giving priority to their own content and blocking access by customers to certain other types of content – free Skype internet service, for example. Big telecommunication companies like Verizon and AT&T are opposed to the rules in part because they claim the expense of building out their own networks justifies an open market that allows them to charge more.

Since its adoption of the rules, both Verizon and MetroPCS have sued the FCC in the D.C. Circuit, arguing that it overstepped its authority in proposing the rules. See Metro PSC 700 MHZ v. FCC (11-1016) and Verizon v. FCC (11-1014).

In the midst of the fray, the FCC has launched something called “The Open Internet Apps Challenge,” a contest (2011 WL 41877) seeking the creation an app (of course) that allows broadband customers to measure and protect Internet openness.  The grand prize – now hold on to your hats here – a reception with FCC officials plus travel costs.

Interesting Congressional and industry viewpoints can be found by running the following search in ALLNEWS on Westlaw or the News Category on WestlawNext: f.c.c. /100 (neutrality open /5 internet) and DA(aft 2/2011)