FCC chief to Congress: Leave Net neutrality alone

CNET has learned that Chairman Julius Genachowski will warn that repealing controversial regulations will "hurt job creation."

The head of the Federal Communications Commission will warn Congress not to repeal the controversial Internet regulations enacted last December, CNET has learned.

Undoing the agency's Net neutrality rules will "increase uncertainty, decrease investment, and hurt job creation," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski will say, according to a draft of his prepared remarks.

Genachowski will offer an unyielding, point-by-point defense of the FCC's 3-2 vote, which fell along party lines, saying that it's already increased investment and that relying on antitrust laws to police errant behavior would be "problematic" and "ill-suited to the fast-changing nature of Internet technology."

The Democratic chairman's remarks highlight how polarized--and partisan--the Washington debate over regulation of broadband providers' business practices has become.

Julius Genachowski
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski FCC

Robert McDowell, a Republican FCC commissioner, is also testifying before a House of Representatives committee and is likely to reprise his earlier warnings that the agency has no legal authority to enact the rules, that antitrust laws are sufficient, and that the regulations will cause more harm than good.

Sentiments in Congress have cleaved even more sharply along party lines. The House voted 240 to 179 last month to block the FCC's decision, a move that will invite a confrontation with President Obama if the Senate follows suit. All but two Republicans backed the measure, while only six Democrats did.

Genachowski, a former Obama 2008 campaign and transition team official, appears to be intent on fulfilling the president's promises made three years ago.

During the 2008 campaign, Obama told CNET that "I will take a backseat to no one in my commitment to Network neutrality." By contrast, In February, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced that "our new majority in the House is committed to using every tool at our disposal to fight a government takeover of the Internet."

Last December, the FCC released the text of its 194-page document (PDF) that explained how broadband providers' business practices will be affected.

In April 2010, a federal appeals court unceremoniously slapped down the agency's earlier attempt to impose Net neutrality penalties on Comcast after the company temporarily throttled some BitTorrent transfers, ruling Congress had given the agency no legal authority to do so. Verizon and MetroPCS have filed a second lawsuit raising many of the same arguments.

 

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