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Posted at 8:16 PM ET, 02/15/2011

Rep. Walden moves to block FCC funding on net neutrality

By Cecilia Kang

A day before a House hearing on net neutrality with all five Federal Communications Commission members, key Republican lawmakers Tuesday introduced a legislative amendment to take away funding that would enable the agency to carry out its rules.

Democrats quickly criticized the action, saying an amendment to block FCC funding for net neutrality rules would also take away funding for other programs and it hasn't been fully vetted by lawmakers overseeing telecommunications policy.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, said Tuesday he added an amendment to the continuing resolution that would essentially block the FCC's attempts to administer its Internet access rules. Walden consulted with Appropriations Committee members Reps. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), he said.

Republicans and some Democrats have criticized the FCC's net neutrality rules for potentially strapping Internet service providers with business constraints. Those constraints include making it hard to try new business models such as pay-for-quality services.

“In the end these are issues better determined by network engineers, entrepreneurs, and consumers acting in a vigorous marketplace, not the subjective politicized judgments of a federal agency,” Walden said in a release.

The amendment reads:

“None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to implement the Report and Order of the Federal Communications Commission relating to the matter of preserving the open Internet and broadband industry practices (FCC 10-201, adopted by the Commission on December 21, 2010).”

Walden's subcommittee will hold a hearing Wednesday on the FCC's net neutrality rules, which prohibit Internet access companies from blocking or arbitrarily slowing down traffic on their networks. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and his two Democratic and two Republican commission members will appear before the lawmakers.

Democratic lawmakers, meanwhile, said Walden was acting in haste.

"To offer for approval on the floor, without the benefit of prior consideration by our Committee, amendments that terminate FCC proceedings and affect other policy areas completely undercuts the normal legislative process," wrote Democratic lawmakers including Rep. Henry A. Waxman (Calif.), Rep. John D. Dingell (Mich.), Rep. Edward J. Markey (Mass.) and Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (Calif.).

"Moreover, there is no urgency to act on these matters with respect to HR 1. The Continuing Resolution is a budget bill; riders on the Open Internet rules or other FCC issues have no effect whatsoever on the critical spending and budget issues addressed by the Continuing Resolution," they wrote in a letter to colleagues on the committee.

By Cecilia Kang  | February 15, 2011; 8:16 PM ET
Categories:  FCC, Net Neutrality  
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