The U.S. House of Representatives will quickly overrule the U.S. Federal Communications Commission's approval of net neutrality rules in December, predicted a Republican lawmaker who opposes the new regulations.
The Senate, although controlled by Democrats, will follow the House's lead, predicted Representative Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican who on Jan. 5 introduced a bill to prohibit the FCC from creating Internet regulations.
The FCC's Dec. 21 vote to approve net neutrality rules has put the agency in a "congressional hurricane," said Blackburn, speaking Tuesday at the Congressional Internet Caucus' State of the 'Net conference in Washington, D.C. The Republican-controlled House will easily pass a motion of disapproval, as well as her bill, she predicted.
Enough Democrats in the Senate are also dissatisfied with the FCC's rules that they will help pass the repeal as well, she said.
She called the FCC's actions, prohibiting broadband providers from selectively blocking or slowing Web traffic, the "first-ever regulation" of the Internet. "Let's not pretend they were put in place to address any market failure or to address any widespread ... consumer disadvantage," Blackburn said
The FCC's Dec. 21 vote was the first attempt to define net neutrality rules, and not the "final word," she predicted. "They are the first draft of many regulations to come," Blackburn said. "And as the rules are revised and revised and revised, they create instability, unpredictability and an honest-to-goodness deterring role to investment."
But Rey Ramsey, president and CEO of IT advocacy group TechNet, questioned why House Republicans were pushing for a repeal of the net neutrality rules if what they want is predictability. The FCC rules are based on principles pushed by a Republican chairman at the FCC, Michael Powell, and a repeal of the FCC's actions could mean that there are no protections for Internet users or Web-based companies, he said.
"One of my concerns is that we really need to look at this and say, 'Will there be some unintended consequences by casting all of this in doubt?'" Ramsey said. "Most of the [tech] companies want some level of certainty about what the playing field will look like. If we remove this regulatory oversight, the question will be, how do we create something that won't prevent these types of principles to move forward?"
Other speakers at the conference didn't share Blackburn's confidence that the Senate would repeal the net neutrality rules. "The Senate is a black hole," said Tom Davis, a former Republican representative and president of the Republican Main Street Partnership. "It's difficult to get anything out of Congress."
Other speakers suggested that President Barack Obama, a supporter of net neutrality rules, would never sign a bill repealing the FCC's action.
While Blackburn criticized the net neutrality rules, she called for new laws to deal with so-called rogue websites that post music and movies infringing copyrights. The U.S. creative industry needs more legal protections against online piracy, she said.
Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.