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Obama threatens to veto Net neutrality repeal

The White House issues a formal veto threat, making it much less likely that a congressional effort to overturn Net neutrality regulations will succeed.

The White House today threatened to veto a proposal to overturn the federal government's controversial Net neutrality regulations.

Opponents of the rules, which the Federal Communications Commission adopted by a 3-2 party line vote last December, have scheduled a Senate vote this week that would lift the regulations before they take effect on November 20.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas) said today that the administration's enthusiasm for Internet regulation is another example of its anti-business outlook.

The Internet, she said, "has been the cradle of innovation, it does not have a problem, and it does not need fixing. More regulation of the Internet is going to stop the investments, it's going to stop the creativity--and put our businesses and our providers at a competitive disadvantage with Europeans and others that have kept their Internet free of over-regulation."

The White House's veto threat (PDF) also stressed pro-innovation themes. "It would be ill-advised to threaten the very foundations of innovation in the Internet economy and the democratic spirit that has made the Internet a force for social progress around the world," the statement said.

Today's threat effectively makes it far more difficult for Thursday's vote to succeed. Two-thirds of Senate and House members must agree to override a presidential veto.

By a 240 to 179 vote, the House of Representatives already adopted the resolution required to overturn the FCC's rules. Only 240 "yes" votes would not be enough to overturn a veto, if that vote was held again today.

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.

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.

Verizon Communications and MetroPCS filed another lawsuit this year to overturn the FCC's regulations. The companies met with an early setback because of a legal technicality--a court said the lawsuit was premature--so they filed it again this fall. The lawsuit claims the FCC overstepped its authority by adopting regulations that deal with blocking traffic and unreasonably discriminating against traffic on their network.