It has been a while since we have heard anything on the net neutrality front, so I thought I would give some recent updates in the ongoing battle. Net Neutrality (NN) is a contentious issue to be sure. For a more detail look in what the issues are so contentious, be sure to check out this previous article for an in depth look at what Net Neutrality debate is all about. At the heart of the debate came down to whether you should fear the government or fear your ISP regulating the flow of data that you receive on the internet.
In December, the five-member FCC voted 3-2 to approve net neutrality rules that stopped service providers from blocking or retarding online access. The three Democrats on the commission voted for the rules, while the two Republican commissioners voted against it. Republicans have stuck by their arguments that a less-regulated Internet would spur investment and innovation.
Republicans argued that the FCC did not have the authority to pass such rules and introduced a resolution to overturn them The Senate and President Obama stated that they would veto the resolution if it came to his desk. A two-thirds vote by both houses would be needed to override a veto. On April 11th 2011, The House of Representatives overturned the FCC’s ruling.
On April 4th the debate continued over NN as members of the House took to the floor to debate and vote in a proposed resolution to overturn the FCC (Federal Communication Commission) standing net neutrality rules. After an hour long debate, over whether NN rules are even necessary, members voted 241 to 178 to take up the H.J. (House Joint) Res 37 later in the week. At the crux of the debate was whether government intervention and regulation will maintain the internet status quo, or lead to a web-based police-state. In the wake of the FCC’s rulings, Verizon Wireless and MetroPCS are planning to sue the FCC over their authority to regulate.
Some of the comments from the debate were:
"We should not trade the freedom of the Internet for a toll road provided by and for ISPs," said Rep. Jared Polis, a Colorado Democrat.
"We need to protect the Internet from government regulation," countered Rep. Rob Woodall, a Georgia Republican.
House majority leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., hailed the House vote for trying to thwart the FCC’s "harmful and partisan plan to regulate the Internet."
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, acknowledged as one of the creators of the internet, has spoken out to favor of the principle of net neutrality. He says that "self-regulation might lead to commercial interests taking precedence, and if this happened, governments should be prepared to step in to ensure that the web remained freely accessible to all."
The FCC rules have not only pitted Democrats against Republicans, but it has also split the business community. Internet service providers, such as AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon, opposed the rules, while companies thriving on an open internet, including Amazon, eBay, and Google, supported the regulations.