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Waxman says net neutrality bill dead, FCC should assert regulatory authority

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) confirmed Wednesday afternoon that his net neutrality bill was effectively scrapped after Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) declined to support the legislation.

In a statement, Waxman urged the Federal Communications Commission to reassert its authority to regulate broadband access providers. Doing so would allow the FCC to create its own net neutrality rules -- an effort that was thrown into doubt when a federal court ruled the agency overstepped its authority by sanctioning Comcast for allegedly violating broadband rules.

Waxman said he and his staff had worked with public interest groups, Internet service providers and Web content companies to try to reach an agreement around a bill that all parties could support. Waxman, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said he had also kept Republican members on the committee abreast of his work. He said it was essential to gain Republican support for the bill.

"With great regret, I must report that ranking member Barton has informed me that support for this legislation will not be forthcoming at this time," Waxman said in a statement.

"This development is a loss for consumers and a gain only for the extremes. We need to break the deadlock on net neutrality so that we can focus on building the most open and robust Internet possible," Waxman said.

He said legislation could still be introduced in this Congress. But analysts say that after the mid-term elections, it will be harder to pass a law to regulate Internet service providers in a Republican-dominated Congress.

"If our efforts to find bipartisan consensus fail, the FCC should move forward under Title II," Waxman said. "The bottom line is that we must protect the open Internet. If Congress can’t act, the FCC must."

Gigi Sohn, president of media reform group Public Knowledge, agreed that the FCC needed to reclassify broadband services in order to carry out its push for net neutrality rules.

“We expect the FCC to do so to carry out one of the fundamental promises of the Obama Administration," said Sohn, who was involved in talks with Waxman. 

Barton said Republican lawmakers didn't feel like there was enough time to create a bill that wouldn't hurt investment in broaband networks. He also warned against the FCC's proposal to reclassify broadband services. He said Waxman's efforts were a result of problem's created by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, who has proposed to re-regulate broadband.

“With Chairman Waxman’s effort comes a tacit admission that the FCC is going down the wrong path, a path that will stifle investment and create regulatory overhang in one of the most dynamic sectors of our economy," Barton said. "If the Congress wants to prevent the FCC reclassifying internet service under Title II it should go ahead and do so without qualification."

By Cecilia Kang  | September 29, 2010; 5:02 PM ET
 
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Comments

What's more important? Consumers enjoying the Internet as it exists today OR gigantic stock corporations exerting their control over the physical infrastructure that creates the Internet in such a way as to jack up profits? Answer: plutocrats will have their way with us. You, Mr. Consumer, count for little to nothing in America. But pay your bills or be rudely called to account on a regular basis by one of America's many fine collection agencies. Even when you are billed in error.

Posted by: BlueTwo1 | September 29, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

You listed Joe Barton as a Democrat. He is a Republican.

Posted by: yehadut | September 29, 2010 5:37 PM | Report abuse

What's this, a Republican saying "no"? Go figure.

Posted by: tristesse27 | September 29, 2010 7:03 PM | Report abuse

And so, Mr. Waxman, having found that it's not so easy to reach a compromise when you are being pressured by Google corporate lobbyists like Public Knowledge and Free Press, instead embraces an extreme position and urges the FCC to break the law.

Note, by the way, that Google's reporter at the Post, Cecilia Kang, didn't report on the bill until it faced opposition. No surprise.

Posted by: LBrettGlass | September 29, 2010 10:47 PM | Report abuse

Party of "NO!" (except for the rich) at it again. If the Rs actually achieve numerical superiority in either or both houses, I hope the Ds will give them full measure of retribution for the R uniformly negative stance. If an R proposes it in the next Congress, vote NO!

Posted by: frodot | September 30, 2010 8:14 AM | Report abuse

The failure of the bill is rather like asking phone companies where they will decide to not have telephones. Verizon dropped telephone service in many states, for example, turning it over to a "rural" company. Whole states are now "rural." So it is not only the internet which is being cut up, limited, divided and profit-maximized through service reducations and high costs.

Posted by: funfun881 | September 30, 2010 9:05 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps someone could explain to me just how in hell the FCC regulating the internet equals neutrality. As it currently stands pretty much anything & everything on the net is open & businesses, advertisers, individuals, etc. surf where they want, see what they want, post what they want, & say what they want; and you want the most censorship prone government body in existence to regulate it to make it neutral? This idea is so full of fail I don't have better words to describe it. Please, people, realise the government of our US is a great idea but neutrality is not their strong suit.

Posted by: BAlton | September 30, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

"Waxman said he and his staff had worked with public interest groups, Internet service providers and Web content companies to try to reach an agreement around a bill that all parties could support. Waxman, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said he had also kept Republican members on the committee abreast of his work. He said it was essential to gain Republican support for the bill."

If Waxman's team did all of the work and Waxman kept the Republicans abreast of his work, doesn't it seem likely that Waxman's team had no Republicans on it. It sure looks like the Republicans weren't allowed access or allowed into the decision making process. Bi-partisan committee my b*tt. That sounds like an excellent reason for a "NO" vote.

Besides the FCC has responsibility over the electromagnetic spectrum, not what goes down a cable or fiber. We really don't need more mission creep at the federal level.

Posted by: BruceM1 | September 30, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

The basic idea behind net neutrality, is that all data, all traffic on the internet, is a stream of signals, consisting of patterns of electronically managed bits. Each bit is either a one and zero. Every combination thereof in the aggregate identical to every other, much the way that electricity going down electric lines is the same everywhere, or that water going through plumbing.

The fact that patterns of ones and zeros can be interpreted and used differently is of as little consequence to the carrier as whether you use your electricity to power a fan to keep you cool and I use it to power tools that make me money.

Currently ISPs charge and meter/regulate on the basis of volume, that is how many 1s and 0s get moved over some period of time, just like how many watts or gallons get to you for you to use how you will.

ISPs want to have the ability to charge on the basis of what the data is purposed for, no longer treating each bit neutrally or equally.

They can do this by interpreting the patterns in the bits, to discern what you are using the internet for! And this without adding any kind of value, beyond supporting the volume for which you already pay.

On wireless systems, at least in the US, this has been extremely profitable strategy for cellular telephone service providers (mostly the same companies as the internet service providers), ironically happened upon when they upgraded to more economical and higher capacity digital wireless systems.

Though it was suddenly possible to send text data over the network much more cheaply than voice communication, they discovered they could charge more for it, handling far less volume per message.

There is a lot to this, but it boils down to extortion.

Examining the bits you are sending and receiving to decide what you will pay is a form of eavesdropping but that is not the worst of it.

Without the requirement that all legal traffic be handled equally or net neutral, ISPs could, at anytime, upon determining that some types of internet use has greater monetary value to the user, choose to charge more for that kind of use.

With modern technology, it will someday be possible to determine what you are using electricity for, and bill you accordingly. It will also be possible to monitor how you use other utility services like water or gas. It might even be sound to charge differently based on use, should issues of scarcity make it necessary.

With the internet though, technology is the only limiting factor and technology has been improving exponentially, resulting in networks capable of carrying millions more bits now than just over a decade ago.

To sum up, net neutrality will provide both security from extortion and incentive to invest in improving network technology as demand increases.

Posted by: FragulDogsmacy | September 30, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Ah, the Republican Tea Bigots and U.S., Inc., working together again to screw the average American.

Just keep putting up with it, stupid America. Be sure and vote for Bush people to run things again. It'll be interesting to hear these emotional mental cases when they actually have to govern.

Posted by: 2229 | September 30, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse

That little rat-face Waxman is such a control freak! He must have been taunted as a child.

Posted by: elby | September 30, 2010 9:16 PM | Report abuse

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