FCC to Take on Net Neutrality?

Is the Federal Communications Commission about to tackle the controversial issue of net neutrality?

The issue has been swirling around the Capital all week, prompting a number of congressional leaders to issue statements reminding the FCC that taking steps to regulate the Internet was out of bounds and out of line at a time when Congress will not be in session.

The FCC moved its monthly meeting from Dec. 15 to Dec. 21, signaling the regulatory body may be taking more time to consider taking up net neutrality before the year is out.

“An extra week will help us evaluate potential agenda items for December,” said an FCC spokesperson, who declined to go into details or confirm that net neutrality would be on the agenda.

The FCC has tried to propose rules that would prevent Internet service providers from managing Internet traffic by slowing down or blocking content to subscribers, but its authority to do so is at question.

The FCC may have already begun to lay the groundwork for a net neutrality rule, taking Monday to meet with representatives from Verizon, AT&T and the NCTA, according to sources.

House Republicans are not amused by the FCC’s pursuit of trying to find a way to work around its authority in order to regulate traffic on the Internet. Nineteen members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to FCC Chair Julius Genachowski calling the potential move “a mistake.”

“I hope that the only turkey cooking next week will be in our kitchens on Thanksgiving and not at the FCC. I am alarmed and disappointed with press reports indicating the FCC will blatantly seek to circumvent Congress and seize authority that they do not have. Rather than poison the well before the new Congress is sworn in, I urge the FCC to stand down on any movement toward net neutrality and work together with the new majority when the 112th Congress convenes in January,” said Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), senior member and former chairman of the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet; who could become the next chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.