Last week was a rough one for network (net) neutrality supporters, especially in the U.S. House of Representatives. Following the introduction of the President’s 2012 budget request, the House swung into gear offering up a number of budget-reducing amendments, including one from Rep. Walden (R-OR-2) that would bar the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from using any funds to implement its net neutrality order.
Meanwhile, a couple U.S. House subcommittees got busy holding hearings on net neutrality. The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology called all five FCC Commissioners to testify at their hearing titled “Network Neutrality and Internet Regulation: Warranted or More Economic Harm than Good?” The ALA, along with the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and EDUCAUSE, weighed in by sending a letter to House leadership, expressing opposition to using the Congressional Review Act or any other legislation to overturn or undermine recently enacted net neutrality rules passed by the FCC. And the library and higher educations organizations were not alone – our letter was joined by several others in support of net neutrality, ranging from small businesses to Catholic bishops. The day before, the U.S. House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet held its own hearing titled, “Ensuring Competition on the Internet: Net Neutrality and Antitrust.”
By midweek, Senate republicans joined in on the action and introduced a joint resolution (S.J. Res. 6), along with their colleagues in the House (H.J. Res. 37), disapproving the net neutrality order approved by the FCC. Then, in a flurry of activity in the House leading up to the vote on H.R. 1, the Continuing Resolution (CR) for the budget, the anti-net neutrality amendment offered by Rep. Walden passed.
So, where does all this leave the issue of net neutrality? For one thing, the House Republicans have clearly voiced their dislike of net neutrality and have taken several different legislative approaches to pull the plug on the FCC’s order and its ability to enforce it – at the same time punting the issue over to the Senate. While the House action on net neutrality wasn’t all that surprising (even anticipated, quite honestly), it is less clear what the issue’s fate might be in the Senate. While the Senate Democrats hold the majority, it will take all acting in unity to ultimately support net neutrality when it comes time to vote.
A complete list net neutrality-related activity during the 112th Congress is available here.
Associate Director, Office of Government Relations