GOP Panel Members Balk at New Net Rules; Measure Regulates Web Control

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Byline: David Eldridge, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Republican lawmakers, calling the FCC's new Internet regulations an overreach and a solution in search of a problem voted Wednesday to move forward with an attempt to overturn the new neutrality rules backed by the White House.

The 15-8 subcommittee vote sends the issue - at its heart a debate over whether the government controls the Internet - to the floor of the House, where it is likely to be approved, though its chances of making it through the Senate or surviving an almost-certain President Obama veto are small.

Still, Republicans used Wednesday's House communications and technology subcommittee hearing to send the message that the Federal Communication Commission had overstepped its authority, despite testimony from some industry leaders that the new rules would not dramatically affect their business.

James Cicconi, a senior vice president with AT&T and a former White House staffer under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, testified that the rules were a fair middle ground.

Under questioning from Republicans, however, he acknowledged that AT&T officials, who collaborated last year with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in drafting the rules, were concerned that the regulations could have been much more draconian.

The regulations are designed to prevent broadband providers - companies such as AT&T and Verizon, which control the infrastructure of the Internet - from interfering with how companies such as Google, Netflix or a small startup use the lines.

Some carriers decided that bad was better than worse, Rep. Greg Walden, Oregon Republican, said. That's a far cry from what supporters have been saying.

Lawmakers were split along party lines, with Republicans voting to overturn, the Democrats voting in favor of the FCC rules.

Democrats, who argue the Internet needs oversight so that entrepreneurial, startup ventures such as Facebook and eBay can be protected from the telecommunications giants, were sharply critical of the Republican actions.

The ranking Democrat on the panel, Rep. …