Senate rejects effort to overturn net neutrality rules

The Senate on Thursday voted to block an effort to repeal the FCC's net neutrality rules for wireless and wired networks, the latest step in a series of legal and congressional maneuvers around the regulations.

The vote, which fell along party lines, was 52-46 to reject a resolution to overturn the rules. The House passed a mainly symbolic measure in April to repeal the rules, which were published in the Federal Register in September after months of delay.

Republicans want to repeal the rules, arguing that they are overly burdensome to telecommunications and wireless companies and that the FCC does not have the legal authority to enforce them. Democrats and the White House have defended the rules, and the Senate defeat of the resolution was cheered by public interest groups that have supported the regulations.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Commerce, Science and Technology committee, said that companies had helped shape the regulations. "These rules are the product of hard work, consensus and compromise," Rockefeller said in a statement. "So at the end of the day, the FCC's light-touch approach to network neutrality prevailed, and that is a good thing."

Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) has sued to block the rules, arguing that they are unnecessary and that the FCC does not have the authority to make the rules. The rules were first passed by the FCC on a party-line 3-2 vote in December 2010 after months of contentious debate. Some supporters of net neutrality--particularly those at public interest groups--urged the FCC to enact stricter rules and reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service to give the FCC more authority over the topic, which the commission did not do.

Under the FCC's rules, wireless carriers are barred from blocking services such as Google Voice and Skype that compete with their own voice and video offerings, as well as those in which they have an attributable interest. However, wireless carriers would not face the same restrictions wired operators will on blocking Web traffic and other applications--a ban on unreasonable discrimination in transmitting lawful network traffic.

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

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