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Senate Weighs Killing Internet Rule Enacted Last Year by FCC

November 14, 2011

Nov. 9 (Bloomberg) -- The Senate opened debate on whether to kill a U.S. rule barring Internet-service providers including Verizon Communications Inc. from interfering with subscribers’ Web traffic.

The move, facing a veto threat from President Barack Obama, would reverse a decision by the Democrat-led Federal Communications Commission. Republicans said that the FCC rule amounts to regulation of the Internet, while Democrats said that the regulation will prevent companies from unfairly blocking or slowing rivals’ Internet offerings.

Under debate today is a resolution of disapproval that would eliminate the FCC’s rule. It faces a vote tomorrow in the Democrat-led Senate; the Republican-led House passed its version in April.

“The net-neutrality order allows the FCC to tell broadband providers what kind of business practices are reasonable and unreasonable” and doesn’t define the terms, leaving companies open to regulatory uncertainty, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Texas Republican and senior Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee, said during debate today.

The net-neutrality rule, approved last year by the FCC on a 3-2 Democrat-led vote, is to take effect Nov. 20, the FCC said in a filing Sept. 22. The regulation would bar Internet-service providers from blocking or slowing online content sent to homes and businesses, while allowing mobile-phone companies to put limits on Web traffic.

FCC Authority

The FCC hasn’t shown that rules are needed, and it lacks authority from Congress to regulate operations by providers of high-speed Internet service, or broadband, Hutchison said.

The agency based its rule on longstanding and widely accepted open-Internet principles, Senator Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat and chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said during debate.

“The FCC has promulgated balanced rules,” Rockefeller said. Without an open Internet, “there would be nothing to prevent your broadband provider from steering you only to its preferred websites and services, limiting therefore your choice as a consumer.”

Verizon has challenged the FCC’s rule in federal court, saying the agency lacks authority to regulate how companies offer Internet service.

--Editors: Steve Walsh, Michael Shepard

To contact the reporter on this story: Todd Shields in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Shepard at

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