Unlike the previous debates on net neutrality, an FCC proposal to create two new Internet principles is not playing out in Congress, but that doesn't mean it's going to be a politics-free zone.
A day after FCC chairman Julius Genachowski proposed rules to ensure application and protocol net neutrality on Internet and wireless networks, six Republicans rushed to the battle, hoping to swat away anything with the stink of "regulation."
The group, led by Sen. Kay Hutchison (R-TX), signed on to an amendment to an appropriations bill that would prohibit the FCC from spending money to create new "regulatory mandates." From the statement:
I am deeply concerned by the direction the FCC appears to be heading. Even during a severe downturn, America has experienced robust investment and innovation in network performance and online content and applications. For that innovation to continue, we must tread lightly when it comes to new regulations. Where there have been a handful of questionable actions in the past on the part of a few companies, the Commission and the marketplace have responded swiftly. The case has simply not been made for what amounts to a significant regulatory intervention into a vibrant marketplace. These new regulatory mandates and restrictions could stifle investment incentives.Right. The U.S. wireless industry is the very definition of innovation and openness. The amendment is a blatantly unconstitutional attempt to assert Congressional control of an executive function. They try to get around this by controlling "expenditures," and I certainly don't know the Supreme Court holdings on such approaches, but it seems to me that controlling purse strings is tantamount to controlling rulemaking. In other words, it's a bunch of hot air, which may or may not cause Genachowski to troop on down to Capitol Hill and make his case, but in any case, the FCC rulemaking will move forward, the three Democrats will approve the new rules and AT&T and Comcast and Verizon will just have to live a playing field that actually encourages innovation. They'll also have to live with the fact that the new rules will open the doors for Google to compete with them on content, applications and services.