The U.S. House of Representatives late on Thursday approved a measure that would block the Federal Communications Commission from implementing the controversial network neutrality rules the agency passed in December.
The amendment to the federal spending bill currently under debate, authored by Greg Walden (R-Ore.), would block the FCC from using any of its funding to enact the net neutrality regulations, which opponents argue will dampen investment and innovation in the Internet sector that has flourished under a deregulated framework.
“We all want an open and thriving Internet. That Internet exists today. Consumers can access anything they want with the click of a mouse thanks to our historical hands-off approach,” Walden said in a statement.
The amendment comes amid a mounting tension between the House and the Senate over the continuing resolution to fund the government through the remainder of fiscal 2011, with the Democratic majority in the upper chamber expected to oppose the FCC appropriation freeze, along with numerous other provisions in the House version.
Republicans in the House Energy and Commerce Committee have staked out a hard-line position opposing many of the Obama administration’s executive actions of the past two years, including health care and energy regulations, as well as the FCC’s net neutrality order.
Earlier this week, Walden, who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Internet subcommittee, held an oversight hearing where each of the five FCC commissioners testified. At that proceeding, GOP members had harsh words for Chairman Julius Genachowski for shepherding through the net neutrality rules, which the commission’s two Republicans opposed.
The same day, House and Senate Republicans introduced companion resolutions of disapproval that would overturn the net neutrality order, a more permanent repudiation than the near-term effort to withhold funding from the FCC to enforce the rules.
“[T]he amendment is simply a stop-gap measure while we work towards passing a more permanent solution,” Walden said. “I would encourage everybody who cares about keeping the government out of the business of running the internet to cosponsor the resolution of disapproval.”
While the House moves may face an uphill climb in the Senate, the FCC is also girding for a legal challenge to its net neutrality rules. Verizon and wireless provider MetroPCS have both filed lawsuits challenging the December order on the grounds that the FCC overstepped its regulatory authority, a view endorsed by many congressional Republicans.
Kenneth Corbin is an associate editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.