FCC's Net Neutrality Plan Faces New Attack

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and 17 other Republican senators are looking to throw a wrench into Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Julius Genachowski's net neutrality plans.

In a letter sent to Genachowski today, the senators claim that the Chairman's proposals, which would introduce rules that govern so-called net neutrality, could stymie private capital investment in broadband deployments and could even limit "the freedom of the Internet."

"When the government picks winners and losers in the marketplace, the incentive to invest disappears," the letter reads.

On Sept. 21, Genachowski proposed the idea of creating network neutrality rules, aiming to codify policies that would prevent service providers from blocking or degrading content and applications beyond the use of reasonable network management techniques. The Commission has set the stage for a formal Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) during a meeting set for Thursday, Oct. 22. (See FCC Chairman Pushes for Net Neutrality Rules and FCC Puts Net Neutrality on Agenda.) Amid all this, the FCC is also tasked with delivering a National Broadband Plan to Congress by Feb. 17, 2010.

That Brownback is against the idea of such rules isn't new. He outlined his disdain for heavy-handed network neutrality rules back in April, well before Genachowski was sworn in as chairman on June 29. Brownback and several other Republican senators reportedly tried to block Genachowski's plan soon after he revealed it last month.

In the latest salvo, Brownback & Co. say the plan looks to clamp down on problems that might emerge later, noting that the initial proposal cites just two "Internet-related disputes" among recent real-world causes for such rules -- most recently, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s throttling of some upstream peer-to-peer (P2P) applications. (See FCC Throttles Comcast and Comcast Fights FCC Net Neutrality Order .)

But there's also a (gasp!) political undercurrent to the senators' complaint.

"Such a major policy shift should be contemplated only with all of the FCC Commissioners involved," Brownback claimed. "To do it with just one party reduced the confidence the public and the Congress has in the proposal."

Three members of the Commission -- Genachowski, Michael Copps, Mignon Clyburn -- are Democrats, while the other two -- Robert McDowell and Meredith Attwell Baker-- are Republicans. So, Brownback is worried that the rules, whatever shape they end up taking, could pass if everyone decides to vote along party lines.

The FCC had no comment on the letter, which was copied to other members of the Commission.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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