- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 15, 2011

When a sharply divided Federal Communications Commission approved sweeping Internet regulations in December, Republican lawmakers vowed that the incoming Congress would undo the action.

That effort begins in earnest Wednesday with the appearance of FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski before a key House panel to defend the “net neutrality” rules.

Rep. Greg Walden, who heads the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee that oversees the agency, is expected to interrogate Mr. Genachowski and the other four FCC commissioners at the hearing Wednesday morning. The Oregon Republican said he is worried about what is in the rules and about the regulatory philosophy behind them.

“More troubling than the substance of the network neutrality rules are the legal theories underpinning them. If left unchallenged, this power grab will allow the commission to regulate any interstate wired or wireless communication on barely more than a whim,” he said in December.

The regulations, approved on a 3-2 vote split along party lines, are part of Mr. Genachowski’s effort to deliver on an Obama campaign promise to establish enforceable “rules of the road” for the Web, with regulations that prohibit phone and cable companies from favoring or discriminating against Internet content and services, including those from their commercial rivals.

The panels three Democratic appointees supported the measure, while the two GOP nominees were opposed.

The rules, drafted by Mr. Genachowski over the past year with input from some industry players, requires broadband providers to give subscribers access to all legal online content — including competing online calling services, Internet video and other Web applications.

But the rules also give broadband providers flexibility to manage data on their systems to deal with problems such as network congestion.

The rules drew fire from both sides of the issue. Net neutrality supporters called the package too weak, and critics predicted they would be overturned by Congress or the courts.

Rep. Tom Graves, Georgia Republican, introduced legislation Tuesday that would prohibit the FCC from using taxpayer funds to implement its net neutrality proposal.

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