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Proponents of net neutrality lost a battle on Friday. The House of Representatives, in the one-page House Joint Resolution 37, voted 240 to 179 to overturn the Federal Communication Commission’s December regulation that prohibits Internet service providers from interfering with web traffic on their broadband networks.
The FCC’s recent order, entitled “Preserving the Open Internet,” aims to prevent companies such as Comcast and Verizon from accessing services like Skype and Netflix that could compete with their own phone and cable offerings. Net neutrality supporters see this regulation as necessary to ensure that Internet service providers do not favor or discriminate against certain websites or applications. Outright blocking is not necessary; Netflix users would grow weary of endless buffering while streaming their favorite movie or television show if not provided enough bandwidth to fully access the site.
However,the Republican majority believes the FCC overstepped its legal authority, and last Friday’s resolution, passed by a largely partisan vote (with only two Republicans voting against the measure and only six Democrats voting for it), states that the FCC’s regulation “shall have no force or effect.” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) claims the new Republican majority is trying to “fight a government takeover of the Internet.”
Net neutrality supporters can take heart that the bill’s continued success is less likely. Although, under the Congressional Review Act, a resolution of disapproval is not subject to the filibuster (and thus needs only fifty-one votes to pass the Senate), the Republicans will need to scrounge up more votes if President Obama follows through on his threat to veto the bill if it lands on his desk.
The FCC will instead find itself defending the measure in the courthouse. Verizon and MetroPCS Communications already filed suit against the FCC, but their suit was dismissed recently by the D.C. Circuit as premature because the FCC’s regulation has yet to be published in the Federal Register. Of course, Verizon intends to refile once the regulation has been published.
- Whitney Boshers
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