House Republicans are wasting no time going after the Federal Communications Commission's controversial net neutrality order, passed by a 3-2 vote along party lines on Dec. 21. On Wednesday (Jan. 5), the day the 112th Congress convened and Republicans took over the House, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) filed the Internet Freedom Act, asserting that the authority to regulate the Internet rests with Congress, not the FCC.
The act is backed by 60 representatives, including the majority of Republican members on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. It is similar to a bill Blackburn filed during the previous Congress.
When the FCC passed its order, Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, called a press conference with Blackburn, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Lee Terry (R-Neb.); they vowed to "explore every option to reverse this order."
"The FCC's Christmas week Internet grab points out how important it is that we pass this bill quickly," Blackburn said. "The only sector of our economy showing growth is online. In these times, for an unelected bureaucracy with dubious jurisdiction and misplaced motives to unilaterally regulate that growth is intolerable . . . I agree that the Internet faces a number of challenges. Only Congress can address those challenges without compounding them. Until we do, the FCC and other federal bureaucracies should keep their hands off the 'net.'"
The FCC's order put in place three rules crafted to make sure the Internet operates the way it does now, preventing blocking of lawful content, applications or services; requiring Internet services to let consumers know their network management practices; and prohibiting services from discriminating against any lawful content or preferential treatment to certain content.
Republican leaders promise similar action on the Senate side. Calling the FCC the "Fabricating a Crisis Commission," Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) offered up the FCC Act, which would ensure that the agency could only make rules when there is a clear evidence of harmful market failure.
Republicans are also considering repealing the FCC's order under the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to overrule regulations issued by government agencies via a joint resolution.