WASHINGTON — The White House said Tuesday that President Barack Obama likely would veto upcoming legislation that would unwind net-neutrality rules the Federal Communications Commission adopted last year.
Senate Journal Resolution 6, (.pdf) which is expected to go to the Senate floor perhaps as early as this week, “would undermine a fundamental part of the Nation’s Open Internet and innovation strategy — an enforceable, effective but flexible policy for keeping the internet free and open,” the White House said. (.pdf) The House passed a similar measure last spring, and Obama had threatened to veto that, too, if it landed on his desk.
The Senate measure, which mirrors the House resolution, says Congress “disapproves” of the FCC’s net neutrality rules, which “shall have no force or effect.” The rules, which don’t go into effect until Nov. 20, bar broadband providers like Comcast and Time Warner Cable from playing favorites with internet traffic, while a lighter set of rules applies to mobile broadband providers like Verizon.
The Obama administration said the measure, floated by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), threatens “the very foundations of innovation in the internet economy and the democratic spirit that has made the Internet a force for social progress around the world.”
The net-neutrality dispute harkens to 2008, when the FCC ordered Comcast to stop interfering with the peer-to-peer service BitTorrent, which can use a lot of bandwidth and is often associated with online piracy.
That marked the first time the FCC officially tried to enforce fairness rules put in place in 2005 by Republican FCC head Michael Powell. Oddly, those rules, which differ only slightly from the ones the FCC put into place, were not opposed by Republicans or Democrats at the time.
That 2008 FCC action came as a response to complaints that Comcast was sending forged packets to broadband customers to close their peer-to-peer sessions, which was first discovered by a technologist who was trying to download out-of-copyright barbershop quartet tunes.