Senate Blocks Resolution to Overturn Net-Neutrality Rules

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, led the Senate effort to repeal the Federal Communications Commission's network-neutrality rules

kaybaileyhutchison.jpg

The Senate voted, 46-52, against moving forward with a resolution that would overturn federal regulations that govern anticompetitive behavior online.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, led the Senate effort to block the Federal Communications Commission's network-neutrality rules, which regulate the way Internet companies provide access to the Web.

"It's time to push back" against federal agencies that are overreaching their authority and enacting burdensome regulations, she argued before the Senate voted on a motion to proceed.

In the end, Hutchison was unable to gather enough support for the measure, which the White House had in any case threatened to veto if passed.

The GOP-controlled House approved a similar resolution in April, but Democrats in the Senate had long vowed to hold the line and stop Hutchison's effort. As ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, Hutchison did an end-run around the committee by gathering 40 signatures to force the full Senate to consider the resolution. The measure failed along a starkly party-line vote.

Democrats opposed the resolution, arguing that the FCC's rules are necessary to prevent large corporations from throttling Internet access.

"The FCC's Open Internet rules mean that small entrepreneurs will not have to seek permission from broadband providers to reach new markets and consumers with innovative products and services," Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said during debate on the Senate floor on Wednesday. "Far from preventing investment, the FCC's Open Internet rules will foster small businesses and support their demonstrated ability to create jobs."

Because of the White House's veto threat, both resolutions were seen as largely symbolic, but Paul Gallant, a telecom analyst for MF Global, said that the effort could have put political pressure on the FCC.

"With Congress unlikely to pass formal legislation on net neutrality any time soon, symbolic actions--such as a resolution of disapproval that passed both houses--take on greater significance in future FCC deliberations," Gallant wrote in a memo to investors on Thursday. "And once the courts address the legality of the current net-neutrality rules, the FCC will face difficult and important decisions on a path forward."

Image: Liz Lynch.

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Josh Smith covers technology policy as a staff reporter for National Journal.

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