House Commerce Committee Approves HJRes 37

March 15, 2011. The House Commerce Committee (HCC) approved HJRes 37, a resolution disapproving the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) rules regulating broadband internet access service (BIAS) providers. The vote was 30-23.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), the Chairman of the HCC's Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, wrote in his statement on March 14 that this is "a simple resolution that would nullify the FCC's launch of a government takeover of the Internet."

He continued that "despite claims to the contrary, the resolution will create certainty. First, it will remove the overhang surrounding how the FCC will apply the rules. Second, it will eliminate the collateral damage to FCC authority that will come when the FCC loses the court appeal. That decision could hinder the FCC's ability to implement the national broadband plan. The resolution avoids this since it only prevents re-imposition of substantially similar rules rather than affect the FCCs underlying authority."

He concluded that "A vote against this resolution is nothing more than a vote to allow the FCC to impose substantially similar rules under Title II after the courts strike these down. The FCC continues to hold the Title II proceeding open and Free Press has not been shy that it still wants reclassification."

Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), the Chairman of the HCC, wrote in his statement that "The FCCs order will harm jobs and the economy by stifling investment and innovation. Even large broadband providers still have concerns. While the cable industry decided it would live with the order rather than face reclassification under Title II, it said in a letter to us that ``there could certainly be an adverse economic impact by chilling the willingness to deploy these new services. The wireless industry also said ``increased regulation tends to depress rather than accelerate investment."

"While the FCC may be loath to admit it, the resolution will prevent further damage to its authority. If the FCC loses its court appeal, the precedent would hinder the FCCs ability to implement the national broadband plan", said Rep. Upton. "Another benefit of this resolution is that it will eliminate the specter of the FCC adopting substantially similar rules under Title II when it loses in court."

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), the ranking Democrat on the HCC, wrote in his statement that "what the majority hopes to accomplish with this bill is to give big phone and cable companies control over what websites Americans can visit, what applications they can run, and what devices they can use."

"Even the companies that might benefit the most from this legislation do not support the resolution. AT&T and Comcast support the FCCs order because it provides greater certainty for investment. The high-tech industry, consumer groups, civil rights organizations, religious groups, and labor unions all say H.J. Res. 37 is a bad idea."

Finally, he argued that "Instead of wasting precious legislative time on another partisan bill that is not going to become law, we should be looking for areas in which we can accomplish something. Spectrum policy, public safety, broadband deployment, and universal service reform are all ripe for bipartisan attention."

Gigi Sohn, head of the Public Knowledge (PK), stated in a release that "It's a shame that legislators who would nullify the Federal Communications Commissions Net Neutrality rules ignore that big network providers would be able to block websites, give preference to others and discriminate in traffic management.  If those legislators had their way, consumers, entrepreneurs and other disadvantaged companies would have no recourse to correct the situation. The transparency rules also would be abolished, leaving consumers and competitors in the dark about what big carriers are doing to manage their traffic."

Craig Aaron, head of the Free Press (FP), stated in a release that his group is "deeply disappointed".