- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 10, 2011

Senate Democrats voted down a Republican-led effort to stop the Federal Communications Commission from enforcing new “net neutrality” regulations that critics have called a federal takeover of the Internet.

Republicans called the rules, set to go into effect Nov. 20, a regulatory overreach and an attempt by the FCC and the Obama administration to fix something that isn’t broken.

“The FCC has essentially granted itself power over all forms of communication — including the Internet. Regulators and bureaucrats all over government are overstepping their bounds,” said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, the Texas Republican who sponsored the resolution, which failed on a 52-46 party-line vote.

“Instead of spending their resources on new jobs, creating investments on new products, on new services, Internet providers are going to have to spend money on lawyers and lobbyists to comply with and go through the processes the FCC will require,” she said.

Democrats argued that the regulations are needed to prevent large Internet providers, such as Verizon and Comcast, from wielding too much power over the “on-ramps” to the Internet.

Sen. John F. Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, said opponents of the FCC rules “want to … imprison the Internet within the hands of the most powerful communications entities today to act as the gatekeepers.”

“Net neutrality is not about a government takeover of the Internet,” said Sen. Al Franken, Minnesota Democrat. “Net neutrality and the rules the FCC passed are about keeping the Internet the way it is today and the way it has always been.”

Over the objections of the two Republicans on its five-member board, the FCC approved the regulations in December, saying they would provide rules of the road for Web traffic as demand for access to communications lines has exploded.

The regulations were written by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, an Obama administration appointee who has consistently pushed back against Republican critics who contend the rules are anti-business.

Mr. Genachowski has cited support from companies such as Google, Amazon and Facebook. Verizon, however, filed a lawsuit in September to block the rules.

After House Republicans led a successful vote in April to overturn the regulations, President Obama, who had campaigned as an advocate of net neutrality, promised he would veto any attempts to overturn the rules.

The regulations are designed to prevent the telecommunications giants from discriminating against or favoring one type of Internet content over another. Proponents have argued that the companies that control the Internet infrastructure can unfairly manipulate access to give their own phone, entertainment, video or information offerings an advantage over Web-based services such as Skype or Netflix.

While Republicans have called the regulations a federal power grab, some net neutrality advocates have argued that the FCC didn’t go nearly far enough. The consumer group Free Press has filed a lawsuit, charging that the rules don’t protect wireless Internet access — where the industry’s greatest growth is occurring.

The FCC exempted mobile wireless providers from some of the rules.

• David Eldridge can be reached at deldridge@washingtontimes.com.

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