This was a vote on final passage of legislation overturning federal “network neutrality” rules. “Network Neutrality” regulations prohibit Internet service companies from charging higher fees to online content providers for service that enables their websites to download more quickly. For example, Internet service providers such as AT&T and Verizon could offer faster service to web sites that could afford to pay for it. Web sites that could not afford to pay for this service, however, would download more slowly. Thus, network neutrality rules were intended to prevent the evolution of a “two-tiered” Internet system. Under such a system, content providers with more money would thrive as a result of being able to pay for service that allowed their websites to download quickly. Less affluent web site owners, meanwhile, could see their traffic slow to a crawl.)_
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC--which regulates interstate and international communication) had imposed network neutrality rules on Internet service providers in 2010. This legislation would overturn the FCC’s rule.
Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) argued that the FCC did not have the regulatory authority to impose network neutrality rules: “If not challenged, the FCC's power grab would allow it to regulate any interstate communication service on barely more than a whim and without any additional input from Congress. The FCC's claim that it can regulate the Internet…not credible….The Internet is open and innovative thanks to the government's hands-off approach…How carriers manage their networks should be determined by engineers and entrepreneurs and consumers in the marketplace, not by as few as three unelected commissioners at the FCC.”
Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) also supported the bill: “Once again, we're here to put the brakes on runaway bureaucracy. The FCC has overstepped its authority and is attempting to seize control of one of the Nation's greatest technological success stories. If there is one segment of our economy that continues to fire on all cylinders in the current economic environment, it is the information technology sector and the Internet….From technological advancements to creative business models, the Internet has remained a thriving, competitive, and innovative marketplace because the government has kept its hand off. Despite this economic and innovation success story, the FCC has decided to fundamentally change the technology landscape by adopting rules regulating the Internet….the Internet is not broken, and this bill will ensure that the FCC does not break it.”
Rep. Henry Waxman opposed the bill: “This legislation is a bad bill. This bill would give big phone and cable companies control over what Web sites Americans can visit, what applications they can run, and what devices they can use. The Internet may be the greatest engine in our economy today. American Internet companies lead the world in innovation. They have created over a million jobs. There is one overriding reason the Internet has fostered such innovation and economic growth: It is open. A kid with a brilliant idea can launch his or her own company out of their family garage. The FCC order protects the openness and vitality of the Internet. The resolution we are debating today would end it.”
Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) also opposed the bill: “…They [the Republicans] are saying that it's okay for the biggest communications companies to totally control the entire blogosphere….No competition. No innovation. No benefits to consumers. The biggest companies that the Republicans support were happy with the way things were going because they could charge whatever they wanted to, provide whatever services they wanted to, ignore competition, and ignore consumers simultaneously. That's what this debate is all about. We had to ensure that those behemoths--the oligopolies, the monopolies--were taken from the clutches of the Republicans and put out into the world where they had to compete. So what do we have here today? Another Republican…[bill] which says let's go back to that era where the biggest companies, the monopolies, defy the one lesson that Adam Smith taught us, which is that monopolies and oligopolies are incapable of enjoying anything but the respect of those who are already in the wealthy class while ignoring those who are in the consumer class.”
The House passed this legislation by a vote of 240-179. Voting “yea” were 234 Republicans and 6 Democrats. 177 Democrats and 2 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the House passed legislation overturning federal “network neutrality” rules. The Senate, however, was not expected to act on this bill. Thus, the FCC’s network neutrality rules remained intact.