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House moves to overturn FCC on Net neutrality

Despite threat of a presidential veto, House of Representatives takes step toward preventing federal regulators from going forward with regulations targeting broadband providers.

Correction 4:50 p.m. PT: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the House adopted a resolution blocking Net neutrality regulations. It approved procedures for voting on the resolution. The headline and story have been changed to reflect that. Also, the story misstated the state Rep. Jared Polis represents. He represents Colorado.

House Republicans moved today to prevent controversial Net neutrality regulations from taking effect, a move that is likely to invite an eventual confrontation with President Obama.

By an almost entirely partisan vote of 241 to 178, the House of Representatives approved procedures for voting on a one-page resolution that says, simply, regulations adopted by the Federal Communications Commission in December "shall have no force or effect."

"Congress did not authorize the FCC to regulate in this area," Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.), said during this morning's floor debate. "We must reject any rules that it promulgates in this area... It is Congress' responsibility to delegate that authority."

Today's vote, which fewer than 10 Democrats supported, comes a day after a federal appeals court said it was too early for Verizon and MetroPCS to sue the FCC to overturn the regulations. The ruling wasn't much of a setback--the lawsuit can be filed again after the agency has formally published the final text of the regulations, which it has not yet done.

The vote approved procedures set the previous evening by the House Rules Committee, clearing a way for a final vote on the resolution itself. That may be a bit anti-climatic: the totals are expected to be similar to today's, with perhaps even less support for the FCC.

Yesterday the White House issued a rare formal veto threat. "If the president is presented with a Resolution of Disapproval that would not safeguard the free and open Internet, his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the Resolution," a statement said. (Obama has not vetoed any legislation since the Republicans gained control of the House.)

Related links
• Court tosses Verizon, MetroPCS suits against FCC
• House plans first vote to overturn Net neutrality rules
• FCC makes Net neutrality rules official

A resolution of disapproval is a formal process, outlined in the Congressional Review Act, that permits Congress to overturn decisions of federal agencies. It requires both the House and the Senate to vote, and is subject to a presidential veto, but is not subject to a filibuster and only requires 51 votes to clear the Senate.

During the House floor discussion, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) said that curbing the FCC's regulations will "imperil one of the greatest sources of job creation and innovation in America."

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass) said in a statement afterward that the FCC's regulations are "a commonsense approach to preserving the most successful commercial and communications medium in our country's history." (Other House Democrats have released a similar statement.)

This is one of those technology topics that has become starkly partisan: During the 2008 campaign, Obama told CNET that "I will take a backseat to no one in my commitment to network neutrality." 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."

On December 23, the FCC released the text of its 194-page document (PDF) with the regulations and accompanying explanations of how broadband providers' business practices will be affected. It had approved them on a 3-2 party line vote two days earlier.

Last April, 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.

The Senate has not yet voted on the resolution of disapproval. A parallel version of the legislation in that chamber has 39 sponsors, close to the majority of supporters required.

Last updated at 3:45 p.m. PT with additional background