Net neutrality effort in Congress collapses

Net neutrality is dead in Congress--at least for now.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said his net neutrality proposal failed to win enough support from Republicans (and fellow Democrats) to advance, and that legislative efforts to solve the net neutrality debate are over for now. The collapse of a legislative proposal puts the ball back in the FCC's court; Congress is poised to adjourn for recess, before the November elections.

"This development is a loss for consumers and a gain only for the extremes," Waxman said in a statement. "We need to break the deadlock on net neutrality." It is uncertain whether new legislation will be introduced after the November elections.

The FCC, under Chairman Julius Genachowski, has been considering a proposal on whether to reclassify parts of broadband as a Title II common-carrier service, which net neutrality proponents believe will give the agency greater legal authority to enact net neutrality rules for wired and wireless networks. That proposal is vehemently opposed by the likes of Verizon (NYSE:VZ), AT&T (NYSE:T) and the CTIA. A legislative directive would have given the FCC the authority to implement net neutrality without reclassification.  

"If our efforts to find bipartisan consensus fail, the FCC should move forward under Title II," Waxman said. "The bottom line is that we must protect the open Internet. If Congress can't act, the FCC must."

In late August the commission opened up to public comment on two of the thorniest issues surrounding the debate: whether and how the rules should be applied to wireless networks, and how to treat "specialized" services. Net neutrality proponents said the action meant the FCC was punting on the issue, pushing it back until after the elections. 

Waxman's proposal would have prohibited wireless Internet providers from blocking consumers' accessing to lawful Internet websites, subject to reasonable network management, along with a host of other stipulations.

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Washington Post article
-see this Reuters article

Related Articles:
FCC still considering reclassification for net neutrality
Net neutrality - One year at the FCC
Verizon strikes back at critics of net neutrality plan
AT&T backs wireless exemption to net neutrality

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