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Even if the repeal had passed the Senate, President Obama had promised to veto it

After months of threats and debating, the Republican leadership in Congress moved forward with plans to block the U.S. Federal Communication Commission (FCC) from rolling out basic net neutrality rules, which prevent landline internet carriers from throttling the user's connection, charging on a per website basis, or engaging in other tactics designed to slow some sites' load times and speed others' up.

I. Republicans Push for Net Neutrality Ban

As Republicans control the House of Representatives, the key battleground in the repeal effort would be the Senate.   Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) sponsored the repeal resolution, S.J. Res. 6.

Sen. Hutchinson took a hard stance, arguing that ISPs should be allowed to charge users on a per-site basis and throttle as they wish, without regulation.  She comments, "The internet and technology have produced more jobs in this country than just about any other sector.  It has been the cradle of innovation, it does not have a problem, and it does not need fixing."

Others in her party took a softer approach.  Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) wrote a "dear colleague" letter to her fellow Republicans.  In it she wrote that she felt that net neutrality regulation was necessary to protect consumer abuse.  But she argued the proper place for it was through the Senate, not the FCC.

But if "pro-net neutrality" Republicans senators had an alternative plan they failed to propose it in concrete form.  And it was unclear when or if a replacement to the current rules would be drafted if repeal was pass -- or for that matter whether a net neutrality bill could past muster in the House and Senate given many Republicans absolute opposition to anything standing in the way of ISPs' efforts to increase profits by cutting back and restructuring regional internet services.

The hardline Republicans like Sen. Hutchinson who flatly opposed any regulation argued that regulation would kill jobs.  Sen. Hutchinson pointed to industry studies that claimed net neutrality regulation would slow infrastructure deployment, and by proxy reduce jobs.

The Republican-controlled House had passed a net neutrality repeal measure in February 2011.

President Obama threatened to veto S.J. Res. 6

II. Democrats Warn That Repeal Would Kill Innovation, Free Speech

The repeal had Democratic President Barack Obama concerned enough that he threatened to veto the bill [PDF] if it should pass, with his office writing in a release, "If the President is presented with S.J. Res. 6, which would not safeguard the free and open Internet, his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the Resolution."

But this dramatic game of political theater end rather mundanely as the Democratic majority in the Senate rallied together in opposition of the resolution.  Sen. John "Jay" Rockefeller IV, the great-grandson of famous oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, led the opposition commenting:
There's still 53 of us, and if we stay together we'll win.  I think we're going to prevail.  Even if they don't, they'll still have the backing of the White House, which has already threatened to veto the resolution, should it survive past the Senate floor. It would be ill-advised to threaten 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.

III. Wednesday's Fiery Debate

Here's some video coverage of Wednesday's debate, which preceded a vote:

Democratic Perspective (~3 min)

Republican perspective (~17 min, but starts off strong)

IV. Democrats Emerge Triumphant

Sen. Rockefeller's stand paid off.  The final vote was tallied yesterday and showed all 52 Democrats voting opposing the measure, and all 46 Republicans voting in favor of the measure.  The bill was thus defeated, clearing the way for the FCC's new net neutrality rules to go into effect next week.  

Two senators did not vote -- Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Senator Dan Inouye (D-Haw.).  It appears that Sen. Inouye was at an event in Washington, D.C. honoring a Japanese veteran of World War II.  It was unclear why John McCain -- who had previously led the charge against net neutrality -- did not vote.

V. Legal Challenges Remain

The rejection of the repeal resolution now leaves the various lawsuits against the rules as the only thing standing in their way.  Interestingly, advocacy groups have also opposed the rules claiming they do not go far enough, and unfairly exempt mobile devices from their provisions.  Several groups have pursued legal action.

The Media Access Project, who had been suing on the grounds of the lax approach to mobile regulation, dropped its legal action after it saw its case assigned to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.  Policy Director Andrew Jay Schwartzman explained that his organization feared a hostile atmosphere in that particular court would kill the case.  He comments, "The D.C. Circuit Court is a very hostile forum.  [It would be a] very close case."

That leaves The Free Press, who is suing on similar grounds.  Strangely The Free Press's President and CEO Craig Aaron -- leading the suit against the rules -- cheered the Democratic success in block their repeal in the Senate.  He comments, "The Senate sent a strong signal today to would-be gatekeepers that the free and open internet needs to stay that way.  The American public doesn't want phone and cable companies undercutting competition, deciding which websites will work or censoring what people can do online."

Most public advocacy groups lauded the vote, while saying the rules still should be extended farther.  Among them is the American Civil Liberties Union.  In a post entitled "It Was Close, But We Won: Viva Net Neutrality!" ACLU Washington, D.C. staffer Sandra Fulton writes:
Though the FCC’s rules are not great, they do offer some protections for net neutrality on the wired Internet and overturning them would have been a huge setback for free speech on the web. During debate on the Senate floor yesterday supporters of the resolution railed against government regulation while opponents defended the rules saying they were necessary to maintain the openness and innovation that has allowed the Internet to thrive.

On the other side of the spectrum, there's also a suit from Verizon Wireless, the joint venture between Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) and Vodafone Group Plc. (LON:VOD).  It's hard to understand why Verizon decided to sue the FCC, given that the Commission's proposal closely mirrors that which a Verizon - Google, Inc. (GOOGpact proposed in Aug. 2010.  The rules offer virtually no regulation on mobile internet service providers -- just as Verizon requested.

Verizon's lawsuit will be heard in the Spring or Summer.  In the meantime Verizon could request in court that the rules be suspended pending the outcome of the lawsuit.  The FCC has already taken a preemptive strike, moving to dismiss Verizon's lawsuit on legal technicalities.

The Democratic-majority FCC under the Obama administration has been quite busy.  It is currently in the process of finalizing a spectrum auction, an effort carriers laud but some TV broadcaster loathe.  It's also assisting the U.S. Department of Justice in its case against AT&T, Inc. (T) who is trying to engulf T-Mobile USA -- a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom AG (ETR:DTE) -- a move which would grant it a virtual monopoly on 3G GSM technology in the U.S.

Sources: Senate, The White House, Engadget, ACLU

Comments     Threshold

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By room200 on 11/11/2011 10:26:42 AM , Rating: 1
How did they "win". You say 3 minutes of arguments about leaving the internet alone from the democrats, vs. 17 minutes of Kay Baily Hutchison selectively talking about regulations that she doesn't like. There are thousands of reulations that are in place now that keep you from walking around choking with a curved spine while eating poisoned food and drinking polluted water. Regualtions are there for a reason.

By Zaranthos on 11/11/2011 10:34:38 AM , Rating: 3
The Democrats talked about leaving the internet alone but that's not what is going on. They made new rules to not leave it along and the Republicans want to abolish those rules. The argument is a great big fail when it says one thing and does another.

By idiot77 on 11/11/11, Rating: -1
By DFSolley on 11/11/2011 11:17:22 AM , Rating: 2
The first step in controlling something is regulating it. You put the bureaucrats in place and say they are only there to make sure it stays pure and free. And then when you have some idea to control it, the bureacracy is in place and ready to exert control. Instead of the big bureacracy, why dont we just pass laws and let matters be settled in courts?

And it seems that you dont understand "the commons", as it usually resolves to the "tragedy of the commons". There are some socialists that say with the correct rules and rulers, the tragedy wont occur... but it always does in time. Public spaces have always been misused, either by overuse or restricting use (giving preference to those with power).
There are definitly places that should be public, but my computer isnt one of them.

By Dr of crap on 11/11/2011 12:40:08 PM , Rating: 2
And the above statements are why I posted what I did above them.
Go blow your politics somewhere else please.

By Nfarce on 11/11/2011 1:33:17 PM , Rating: 2
Like paying for stuff you don't use? There you go, that's how the internet will be run if the Republicans have their way.

Well, I'm taxed in my local voting district for things I don't use. That means I pay for things like public transportation access, recreational park maintenance, libraries, handicap facilities, and on and on and on. Both Democrats and Republicans are involved with that.

And then I can expand that into the federal level with just one example: by soon having to pay a higher health care premium because Obamacare mandates that health insurance providers must provide birth control free of charge (no copays). In other words, we ALL will be paying for that even if we don't use it. And that's pure Democrat legislation.

Then of course there are wonders of Democrat legislation like the Dodd/Frank bill that caused everyone's banking fees to go up. But, all that's for another rant and another post.

By shin0bi272 on 11/14/2011 10:51:52 AM , Rating: 3
hey re-re ... libertarians want maximum freedom and minimum government. Learn your political parties before you type.

Also if you think that "the commons" shouldnt be owned tell that to the city you live in who charges you for water... or even better the private company that youre buying bottled water from. You mentioned health care, fire protection, police protection, retirement(really??), and the military in your mindless argument. NONE of these are what you are describing. All of those things are other people's labors and should not be considered an entitlement...which is what you are suggesting by saying these things shouldnt be "owned". I see through your mindless leftist argument and I am not amused.

Your entire argument is not only a fail but its also advocating centralized planning and a huge federal government which is what we know as socialism or communism... and thus you are a moron. Please log off and kill yourself you mindless waste of space.

By blankslate on 11/15/2011 4:06:02 PM , Rating: 2
The idea of the commons is valid concept. Particularly when it comes to natural resources that everyone needs for survival water and air being the most obvious examples.

Does anyone on this board actually trust a corporation whose sole purpose is to turn a profit to not take short cuts which could contaminate water or air if taking the shortcut would result in higher profits?

Unfortunately, past examples have shown that we cannot. Some government regulation is necessary to ensure that reasonable precautions are taken to prevent pollution of air or water.

As far as this argument about net neutrality goes, it has become apparent again that we cannot trust companies not to slow down or speed up internet traffic in order to give their business partners an advantage or give their competitors a disadvantage.

One of the main reasons for the rapid growth of the internet was the fact its blindness as to where the bits originated and what their destination was.
The internet is not a natural resource but many have come to depend on it for information, entertainment and conducting commerce.

Now to ensure greater profits some media corporations would like to slow down traffic over their parts of the network that originate from a competitor. They might even slow down information from servers that host blogs or stories that are unfavorable to them.

So why should the government have a say in whether or not companies can do this? Everyone knows that the internet has already helped some companies enjoy great profits when they have made the internet a core of their business model.
amazon and newegg come to mind.

It might not have happened as quickly or perhaps not even have begun yet, if certain senators didn't advocate the commercialization of what started as a Defense Agency research project.

If you don't believe me then read what one of the pioneers has to say about it.

I believe that this does mean that if corporations take measures to slow down access to information from sources that they aren't partnered with or are competing with them, then someone has to step in and stop that behavior.
Despite being cast as a mindless ghoul that wants to regulate every thing to the detriment of the very things they are regulating the federal government does have a role in regulating some things because they are the only group who can.
Particularly in the case of ensuring that there is no preference given to information flowing over the network when it was government research and then advocacy by members of the government that gave rise to the internet as we know it today.

If we want to have an influence on those regulations then it is our responsibility to vote for the people who we believe will be wisest when it comes to enacting those regulations.

This includes doing the due diligence in researching a candidates political stance. This is especially true when we hear something from some talking head who has his own agenda that determines what information that he/she is telling you and as importantly what they aren't telling you.
Ironically the internet is a very good means of verifying those things if we're willing to follow the trail to the source documents.

It's a shame that people are ignoring the potential of corporations to inhibit a persons free access to information over the internet because we're afraid of the government.

The average person can vote and thereby have an influence over the government, you can't say the same about corporations unless you have stock in a company and even then you probably don't have enough shares to really have any influence on a corporation.

A knee jerk reaction against net neutrality rules is kind of ignorant when you look at the picture as a whole.

Sure point out the double standards between wired and wireless companies. Criticize the people who are writing the regulation. However, don't just discount net neutrality as something that is needed for the internet allow a free exchange of ideas and knowledge in the future as it has done up to this point.

“We do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone.” -- Steve Jobs

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