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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

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

By Rob Noxious on 11/11/2011 12:40:59 PM , Rating: 2
As usual, no substantive retorts from your side, just ad hom attacks on what you perceive as the enemy (those, me perhaps, you perceive as your enemy, of the "workers of the world, unite" -- and really, what's wrong with that anyway?). I'm tired of baseless attacks.

Kay Hutchinson reads text obviously not written by her, since she can barely articulate it without her mind and voice wandering. Whether it was her aides or lobbyists who wrote it is irrelevant. Saying that Net Neutrality will prevent job creation is mindless psychobabble with no basis in business reality. Net Neurtrality prevents, as Franken said, your ISP from shoving Domino's, Pizza Hut and Papa John's down your Google search for "nearby pizza" before the result for the small business that's also in the same area.

Net Neutrality needs to be expanded, not eliminated. Prioritizing the Net based on the amount spent to influence it instead of the fair playing field of information is what this is about. It's mostly what we have now. Yet reactionaries LIKE YOU want to allow big business to change the system, a system that will not benefit you at all and will in fact cost you more money.

And, Zaranthos, piss off. I've had a real world job, a career in fact, paid taxes, supported a large family, and done it all by myself for 35 years. Your smug condescension is noted, and frankly, makes you look small-minded.

By Zaranthos on 11/11/2011 1:12:23 PM , Rating: 2
No I'm arguing that a myriad of new regulation is not inherently a good thing. Did you even listen to what the woman said? Apparently not. But I'm sure having some unelected group make up rules as they see fit instead of the people we elect is guaranteed the best possible outcome? Seriously? I'm also arguing that leaving it to the free market might not be a bad thing because when Sucky Company A starts pricing and restricting your internet New Company B will see an opportunity to offer you a better choice and competition will force Sucky Company A to change, compete, or lose to the rules of the free market. Free market rules could hash out most problems better than regulations that often just inhibit the market. If you think more and more rules, regulations, and bureaucracy work so well read the tax code and explain it all to me in detail in your next post.

By yomamafor1 on 11/11/2011 2:56:38 PM , Rating: 2
Does "collusion" ring any bell?

By Iaiken on 11/11/2011 2:57:26 PM , Rating: 2
I'm sure having some unelected group make up rules as they see fit instead of the people we elect is guaranteed the best possible outcome

Technically, the people you that the people elected just approved those rules by blocking their prohibition.

As for your pathetic attempt at explaining how the free-market can fix segments with massive barriers to entry, it simply demonstrates that you have zero knowledge of how an ISP even operates. Outside of major urban centers, there is no competition whatsoever because the cost of entering these remote markets makes a ROI almost impossible unless you have an absolutely gargantuan advantage over the competition. If you're a small start up going against a national ISP, they can just subsidize a local loss until you go out of business.

You also have absolutely zero idea of what anti-competitive behavior is even likely to occur. The Canadian internet is largely unregulated an I've already provided the government with documented cases where Rogers Communication shaped my Netflix traffic to the point where it was almost unwatchable. What's more, I documented how Rogers did not count their own video on demand service internet service against my monthly data allowance.

If the absence of rules creates an environment where such corporations can engage in anti-competitive abuses to achieve competitive advantage or financial gain, abuses will occur. Hence the rules...

By Reclaimer77 on 11/12/2011 2:45:15 AM , Rating: 2
The Canadian internet is largely unregulated an I've already provided the government with documented cases where Rogers Communication shaped my Netflix traffic to the point where it was almost unwatchable. What's more, I documented how Rogers did not count their own video on demand service internet service against my monthly data allowance.

That sounds like a personal problem. I've never had that happen and neither have the VAST majority of Internet users.

And to the OP, anyone supporting Franken and Kerry is a quantifiable and provable idiot. That's really not an opinion, it's a fact. Franken is Stewart Smiley, a hack actor who stole an election, who knows nothing of what he speaks of. And Kerry, well what could I possibly point out about him that everyone doesn't already know?

If the absence of rules creates an environment where such corporations can engage in anti-competitive abuses to achieve competitive advantage or financial gain, abuses will occur. Hence the rules...

I'm not accepting this premise, but if that's the case why can't we simply make laws to prevent this? Do we really NEED to hand over control of the Internet to the FCC? We keep burying things behind layers of bureaucracies when they could be handled in far better ways.

But typical Iaiken, blindly support regulation no matter what the issue. Does it make you feel warm and fuzzy at night or something?

By alphadogg on 11/14/2011 10:39:51 AM , Rating: 2
Reagan was an actor too. So, if being an actor means you have no political potential, are you prepared to summarily dismiss both Francken and Reagan?

By ekv on 11/17/2011 4:18:03 AM , Rating: 2
I think I missed the Governor Franken part.... Perhaps Stu was the head of SAG? no?

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