House Republican Asks FCC to Stop Open Internet Vote

By  |  Tuesday, October 20, 2009 at 9:03 pm

joe_bartonIf you’re a fan of net neutrality, meet your next enemy. Republican Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who has asked the FCC to stop a planned vote on open Internet rules.

PresidentObama has pushed for the change, and it appears as if it will pass, as Chairman Julius Genachowski apparently has the support of the commission’s two other Democrats, reports the WSJ.

Essentially, what these rules would do is make it illegal for ISPs to selectively slow down or block certain Internet content, while at the same time compelling them to reveal how their networks are managed. Barton sees this as a  problem apparently, and so do the big telcos.

He believes it would be “potentially catastrophic” to the broadband industry, which is a take that’s certainly at complete odds with about two dozen smaller providers who have lauded the imminent vote. To them, it offers a more level playing field and will be an impetus for growth.

Big telcos are complaining that this hampers their investments in the broadband network, and are pulling the Obama card–he’s a big proponent of nationwide broadband.

Wireless Internet is also covered by this proposal, which to date has been unregulated. Barton here believes such regulations would “retard the deployment” of the wireless web.

It’s hard to read here exactly who is right and wrong. In defense of the big telcos, these folks have spent quite a bit on building out broadband. Then again, sticking up for the little guy, a few companies control basically the entire US Internet, effectively shutting others out.

But why would the Republicans want to get on this side of the issue? After all, Obama’s broadband policy is intended to help those who many of these folks claim to represent–our rural citizenry and small business. Ah, politics in Washington these days.


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16 Comments For This Post

  1. Seumas Says:

    I’m quite wary of the FCC having anything to do with the internet. They’re trying to get their hands on everything they can, even where they have no business “officiating”. Unfortunate.

  2. Neal Campbell Says:

    The idea of net neutrality is nobel. I just don’t think we want government to regulate it. We can’t have a free and open Internet if Government is given any authority in the arena.

  3. Jeremy Toeman Says:

    don’t know if it’s related, but back in 2006, Joe Barton’s campaign received $30K from Comcast, $21K from NAB, $14K from Verizon, $11K from AT&T, and $11K from Sprint…

  4. Ed Oswald Says:

    Jeremy – Hmm.. how much did he raise overall? that doesn’t sound like much altogether… considering they raise millions for campaigns these days.

  5. Paul Judd Says:


    The problem is that without regulation, the industry has turned to what it is today, internet access is controlled by a duopoly of internet providers (typically one cable provider and one DSL provider) who love to abuse their customers lack of choices and try to interfere with the content that we should have equal access too – the way the internet was designed. Thats something that most people forget – the internet was founded based on the concept of this neutral platform. It was never intended to be a system that could be controlled such the way it is where telcos can end up effectively turning the internet into a closed platform where they make all the rules. Remember – we had the concepts of net neutrality until the industry was de-regulated. Nobody wants the government to step in, but when they don’t, industries can become high on their own power. Look at how every other country operates – they have net neutrality policies in place and it has done the exact opposite of what the telcos here fear – customers have choice, prices are lower, infrastructure gets improved (which is the exact thing that monopolies do not want to do).

    As Harry points out, the Telco’s did spend lots of money to deploy infrastructure, but there are a couple of points that we also need to consider – 1) The ISP’s make billions of profit on said infrastructure – its been paid for already – of course when you are in a duopoly situation thats pretty easy. 2) The ISP’s got billions of dollars back in the 90’s to build that infrastructure – Of course they had to have network neutral approaches when they got this money. They have been fighting these terms for years and delaying deployment of large amounts of fiber becasue the network neutrality components effect their bottom line.

    Yes, the telcos should be compensated for their infrastructure deployment but they can’t have their cake (being granted funding by the government via taxes) and be able to be a monopoly or duopoly. Either we keep the monopoly (or duopoly) and regulate it like we regulate other monopolies (like electricity), or we actually have to break these guys up or do something to get competition. Competition is the great equalizer.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Telcos are an industry without regulation, Paul? That’s interesting.

    It’s too bad they don’t have government-granted monopolies over transmission lines. Otherwise, they could leverage that monopoly power to ignore infrastructure pricing signals (ie, customers wouldn’t be able to leave, so even while the lines rot they patronize the services).

    It’s also too bad telcos haven’t been under constant antitrust regulation, or they might be broken up by the government into regional monopolies with even worse service than than the national holding company which begat it, just to merge back under the same name less than twenty years later, except with government listening devices in every switching room and a gaggle of lobbiests who have been dealing with antitrust law for their entire adult lives, and know how to seek rent like a hog seeks truffles.

    It’s too bad the corporations are running roughshod over customers. There ought’a be a law!

  7. Paul Judd Says:

    I never said “no regulation”, however sever aspects of them have faced severe deregulation as far back as 2001. As far as anti-trust, no, there hasn’t been any real anti-trust cases, but there should be. The telcos are some of the biggest lobbyists though and they fight tooth and nail to prevent any interference with their companies. Remember, these issues haven’t been discussed much in the past 8 years, because up until now, the technology has never been out there to make it an abusive system.

    Besides, no mention ever gets made to the fact that back in the 90’s, the ISP’s were granted billions under the agreement to lay out fibre across the US, that never happened. The goverment for years ignored this and they are now starting to pay attention. It takes alot.

  8. Mari Silbey Says:

    Richard Martin at VON summed up Net Neutrality best. It’s hard to argue that these are the issues we should be addressing.

    “There are only two real questions at the heart of the net neutrality debate: How can access providers who are also content suppliers, or have corporate partnerships with content providers, be prevented from favoring their or their partners’ content over outside content? And how will FCC policy insure that ample bandwidth is available so that caps and “reasonable network management” (in Comcast’s Orwellian phrase) is not onerous for the vast majority of end users?”

  9. Ben Franklin Says:

    The name “Net Neutrality” sounds great, but when you look behind the scene there is something different. The Govt is pushing this claiming to grant more access, but their real agenda is to do this in the name of Social Justice and will control and regulate content on the internet. They will claim this because of the money that the govt will be putting into the internet. The internet will be owned and operated by the govt. So they will be able to tell us what can and can not be on the internet. So much for free speech. How is this Hope and Change working out for you.

  10. John Baxter Says:

    Carelessly-written net neutrality rules will kill email. Think you get lots of spam now? You only get perhaps 5% of what you would get if blocking became illegal.

  11. Paul Judd Says:

    Net Neutrality is about access to content. Span filtering is perfectly allowable under neutrality rules.

    As long as it is legal, the customer should have the ability to access it equally no matter who provides the pipe. Its about network connectivity to content that the customer accesses, not unsolicited emails sent by data services. Thats the exact reverse.

  12. Chris Says:

    HELLO People have we forgotten what the deregulation of the Airlines and Telephone did for the prices we paid for these services. Look up your history of government regulation has cost the American consumer in the past before you assume regulation is a good thing… This article is poorly written and intentionally misleading…

  13. Paul Judd Says:

    Just a clarification on Spam – Its not related to the net neutrality debate, because the ISP is not filtering access to email as a protocol – I can access Google’s email equally along side Comcast and Comcast doesn’t treat Google’s email any differently than if I were using GMAIL alone – I have equal access to legit email no matter where I am. Spam filtering is done on an entirely different level and is primarily controlled by me the end user.

    Take GMAIL for instance – I have complete control over what is marked as Spam and what is not – All that is done on the client software as a service that I agree to by the ISP. However Google doesn’t just block and never sends email from your neighbor unless you explicitly tell them to mark it as spam and delete it right away.

    Network Neutrality isn’t a “everything goes, no rules whatsoever!”. Nobody is suggesting that at all.

  14. Paul Judd Says:

    Chris: Deregulation only works when there is adequate competition to keep prices in check. That is not what is going on in the ISP business where most places have little to no competition whatsoever at a reasonable price.

    Internet access needs to be treated like a utility akin to water, electricity, heating, etc – all industries that are highly regulated if only one provider is available. For example, I have no choice on where I get my water – none. It’s a regulated system which is priced by the city and priced as such – they can’t just jack the rates up by 30%. Of course they probably don’t make much of a profit on Water service, but it’s a necessity that they provide. As far as ISP’s If I don’t like Comcast’s rate hikes, I can’t really choose the local DSL provider – they are priced exactly the same. Heck, I can’t even choose another cable company because they don’t operate in my area. Of course Comcast can just jack up their rates and they don’t really have to worry about loosing customers all that much because there is no other alternative.

    If they want deregulation, there has to be provisions for competition. We did it to the Ma bells back in the day and they are slowing re-forming again. The telco’s are wanting to have their cake and eat it too.

  15. phoenix mattress Says:

    this is a red herring. leave the internet alone!

  16. Nate Says:

    Paul, I think you have a bit too much confidence in the government given their track record.

    You are right that competition has been lacking but that is changing. Wireless ISP’s are popping up all over the place and this will only continue. Every phone, cable, and DSL provider planning to stay in business are looking at wireless because it will allow them to compete in any location regardless of who owns the copper in the ground. The government could help improve the situation by helping fund wireless start-ups.
    If net neutrality passes it will interfere with an ISP’s ability to manage their network in a way that keeps the network running well. There are perfectly legal applications out there now and most likely many to be invented that allow a individual to negatively impact the network for others in their area. With net neutrality an ISP’s ability to control these applications would be gone, unless the ISP massively built out their infrastructure – raising prices.
    Also, members of congress have been looking for ways to tax the internet for a long time. I would expect that the more involved they became the more likely it would be that they would find a reason to start taxing it. Just like they did with the PSTN.
    As an IT department manager I prefer to see the government stay away from the internet.