GOP lawmakers tell Obama they don't like broadband reclassification
Republican lawmakers on Wednesday wrote a letter to President Obama, protesting a move by the Federal Communications Commission to assert its authority over broadband service providers.
House Republican leader John Boehner (Ohio) and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said a proposal by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service “could hardly come at a worse time for our nation’s economy, which is already struggling against a steady flow of increased government spending and taxation from Washington.”
The lawmakers sent a copy of the letter (pdf) to Genachowski, who is not obligated to answer directly to Obama because the FCC is an independent agency. But the letter comes amid greater pressure by Republican lawmakers and broadband service providers to abandon Genachowski’s plan.
Yesterday, Rep. Cliff Stearns (D-Fla.) introduced a bill that would make it more difficult for the FCC to impose rules on broadband service providers.
Analysts said the issue could end up as a political one ahead of midterm elections this fall. Republicans have depicted the proposal by the FCC as over-regulatory. The lawmakers in their letter called it "a crusade to take over the Internet." But key Democratic lawmakers -- including the House and Senate Commerce Committee chairmen (Rep. Henry Waxman and Sen. John Rockefeller) --have thrown their weight behind Genachowski's proposal, which they said would ensure a watchdog over broadband providers. They add that reclassification would enable the FCC to expand high-speed Internet connections across the nation.
Genachowski said last week that his plan would cover broadband service providers and not Internet applications or content companies such as eBay or Amazon.
In their letter, Boehner and Cantor said the FCC should seek additional authority from Congress after a federal court last month put the agency’s ability to regulate broadband services in doubt. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said the FCC in 2008 overstepped its authority when it sanctioned Comcast for blocking a peer-to-peer application. That decision threw into question whether the FCC could continue with its net neutrality proposal and portions of its national broadband plan.
But the lawmakers said the proposal to reclassify broadband under the FCC risked putting more rules on broadband providers.
“To help expedite our recovery and create jobs, we urged you to refocus the Commission on promoting broadband investment and deployment,” they wrote.
AT&T, Verizon and Comcast -- the biggest broadband service providers -- have criticized Genachowski's proposal. And free-market groups like Americans for Prosperity have launched a more than $1 million marketing campaign to fight against the move.
Companies such as Google, Skype and Amazon support reclassification. They and public interest groups have pushed for net neutrality rules that they say would prohibit broadband providers from unfairly picking what services get priority over their networks or special rates that could unfairly disadvantage competitors.
May 12, 2010; 3:31 PM ET
| Tags: Network neutrality
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