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Ranking house member calls for halt on net neutrality, others show support

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex), ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, called on Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski Tuesday to stop a push to create broadband Internet rules, saying new regulations could have "catastrophic" effects on investment in Internet networks.

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass) and Rep. Anna Eschoo (D-Calif.), meanwhile, sent their own letter to Genachowski, saying the continued success of the Internet depends on new rules. The two lawmakers are members of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

The letters add to a flurry of debate over so-called net neutrality rules that the FCC is scheduled to take up this Thursday. Commission members are planning to vote on whether to begin the rule-making process. Genachowski has proposed that the agency codify and broaden current guidelines that prevent carriers such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from acting as gatekeepers over what applications and content consumers have access to on the Web.

"In the macro-economic context of the most severe recession in a generation, independent agencies like the FCC should be extremely cautious as to the promulgation of regulatory policies which could retard investment in new technologies and cause loss of employment in the communications sector," Barton wrote in his letter.

He proposed the FCC drop its notice of proposed rulemaking. Instead, he said the agency should gather more data on the issue as part of a notice of inquiry, the first step the agency takes to pursue an issue. The FCC issued a notice of inquiry in 2007 on the topic.

Markey and Eschoo, long-time supporters of net neutrality, commended the FCC's approach to creating new rules, stressing the importance of transparency in the process. Their point of view clashed with Barton's on the economic impact of such rules:

"A common-sense non-discrimination requirement will ensure that in the future, an efficient marketplace exists where businesses and consumers -- not network providers -- decide the winners and losers in the Internet ecosystem," they wrote.

By Cecilia Kang  |  October 20, 2009; 7:35 PM ET
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Funny that Joe Barton is talking about the "macro-economic" context of net neutrality. Open any macroecon textbook to the section on investment, and notice how there is nothing mentioning regulation.

Oh, wait. Isn't AT&T headquartered in Barton's district?

- Ama Bala

Posted by: amabala | October 21, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

How about a "common sense non-discrimination requirement" that requires that the FCC not discriminate, in its rules, against ISPs and in favor of content providers such as Google (which it would be doing in the proposed rules)?

Brett Glass
Owner and Founder, LARIAT
The world's first wireless ISP (WISP)

Posted by: squirma | October 22, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse

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