GOP leader puts kibosh on Net neutrality bill

Texas Congressman Joe Barton says yesterday that he won't support a House of Representatives proposal to protect Net neutrality.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
3 min read

The latest attempt to introduce Net neutrality legislation has stalled in a House of Representatives committee after a prominent Republican declined to support the proposal.

Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, the senior Republican on the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, said he would not support a Net neutrality proposal put forth earlier this week by Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.)

Waxman introduced a proposal for Net neutrality that would have prohibited wired broadband providers from "unjustly or unreasonably" discriminating against legal Web traffic. The proposal was very similar to one that was put forth by Verizon Wireless and Google last month. Both proposals would have prohibited wireless broadband networks from the same nondiscrimination requirement.

Waxman said in a statement that he was disappointed that Barton rejected the proposal since the committee had included Republican staffers in its deliberations. Waxman described the proposed legislation as a win-win for consumers as well as broadband service providers by empowering the Federal Communications Commission to enforce violations while providing adequate protections for cable and phone companies.

"Consumers would win protections that preserve the openness of the Internet, while the Internet service providers would receive relief from their fears of reclassification," he said.

Waxman admitted the legislation was only a temporary stop-gap to protect Net neutrality until Congress could come up with a more permanent solution.

Barton said he couldn't support the proposal because he feels that Congress should be looking for a more permanent solution.

"I have consulted with Republican leadership and members of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and there is a widespread view that there is not sufficient time to ensure that Chairman Waxman's proposal will keep the Internet open without chilling innovation and job creation," Barton said in a statement. "This is not a solution for the future of the Internet. America should be about preserving the vibrant and competitive free market that exists for the Internet and other interactive computer services, unfettered by federal or state regulation."

AT&T, which worked with Waxman and other lawmakers on the compromise legislation, also expressed disappointment that it did not get full support.

"While we are disappointed that it was not possible to introduce a bill with bipartisan support, we are mindful that these issues are important and complex, and that there was insufficient time to consider and act on our efforts," Jim Cicconi, senior executive president of AT&T's external and legislative affairs, said in a statement. "We are pleased that ranking members Barton and Stearns remain open to congressional action on this issue, and pledge to work closely with them toward that end."

The stalled effort is the latest in a long line of failed attempts to get formal Net neutrality rules in place. The Federal Communications Commission is currently working on official rules. But some critics argue that a recent federal court decision has called the FCC's authority into question. A court ruled earlier this year that the FCC did not have the jurisdiction to sanction Comcast when it was found violating Net neutrality principles.