WASHINGTON — The Senate is likely to vote within days on a measure that would undo net-neutrality rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission in 2010, even though they’ve yet to go into effect.
One of the lead sponsor’s of Senate Journal Resolution 6 (.pdf), Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) said “The Internet is not broken and does not need fixing.” She said a likely vote was planned for this week.
The measure simply says that Congress “disapproves of the rule” and “such rule shall have no force or effect.”
The brouhaha dates to 2008, when the FCC ordered Comcast to stop interfering with the peer-to-peer service BitTorrent, which can use a lot of bandwidth. That marked the first time the FCC officially tried to enforce fairness rules put in place in 2005 by Republican FCC head Michael Powell. The action came as a response to complaints Comcast was sending forged packets to broadband customers to close their peer-to-peer sessions — a tactic used by the Chinese government to block internet content it doesn’t like.
Comcast appealed the decision, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last year vacated the agency’s net-neutrality rules.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said the agency was enforcing the net-neutrality Four Freedoms, a set of agency principles dating to 2005 that supposedly guarantee that cable and DSL users have the right to use the devices, services and programs of choice over their wireline connections.
In response to last year’s appellate court decision, the FCC formalized the rules again, hoping to put them on stronger legal grounds — though it did not use all of the regulatory tools at its disposal, which left many net neutrality proponents angry that the Obama administration was not living up to campaign promises.
Verizon is already suing the FCC over the rules, which mostly apply to cable and DSL providers, and go into effect Nov. 20.
The rules prohibit companies from unfairly blocking services they don’t like and require them to be transparent about how they manage their networks during times of congestion. Mobile carriers like AT&T and Verizon face fewer rules but are banned from interfering with alternate calling services such as Skype.