House Republicans voted to block new Federal Communications Commission net neutrality rules, calling them an example of an overreaching federal government. The FCC seeks to implement rules preventing Internet service providers from discriminating against content providers and customers via different fees and connection speeds. The House passed an amendment to a spending bill that would cut off money the FCC would spend to enforce net neutrality rules.
Net neutrality and the federal budget
In an attempt to keep the FCC from implementing new net neutrality rules, the Republican-controlled House approved an amendment to a budget bill needed to fund the federal government to the end of the 2011 fiscal year in June. The amendment to defund FCC net neutrality is one of the few means Republicans have to satisfy their constituents at companies like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon who control most U.S. Internet access. Political analysts doubt whether the net neutrality amendment, as well as other Republican measures to defund programs they don’t like, will survive the legislative process. But if the amendment becomes part of the budget bill needed to fund the government, it will be difficult for President Obama to veto.
Net neutrality becomes a political football
The FCC’s new net neutrality rules have strong support from Senate Democrats and President Obama. The rules passed the Democratic House in December, but Senate Republicans stalled the measure in anticipation of the GOP gaining control of the House in the new year. Senate Democrats, who still hold the majority, are adamant that they won’t address the Republican net neutrality defunding amendment. The current government funding bill expires at midnight on March 4. Congress must pass a new spending bill by then, or the federal government will be forced to shut down.
Net neutrality basics
New net neutrality rules are being considered because a few major companies control Internet access for most Americans. Some people suspect these companies of colluding with each other to keep rates high and the quality of service low. The FCC hopes to encourage more competition in the Internet service provider market by preventing major Internet service providers from charging websites for faster access and throttling Internet connections for content providers and customers who don’t pay extra.