FCC Chief, GOP Spar on 'Net Neutrality' at Hill Hearing; Web-Traffic Rules Called a Federal Power Grab

Article excerpt

Byline: David Eldridge, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski offered a strong defense of his agency's new Internet traffic regulations, telling skeptical Republican lawmakers on Wednesday that existing laws were not strong enough to police the large companies that operate the Web's infrastructure.

In my view, while critically important, antitrust laws alone would not adequately preserve the freedom and openness of the Internet, the FCC chief told a House Judiciary subcommittee on the hot-button issue of net neutrality.

The issue has led to sharp disputes between major users of the Web and the telecommunications giants - such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon - that build and maintain the basic wiring underlying the global information network.

Led by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Virginia Republican, GOP lawmakers at the hearing questioned whether the new rules pushed through by Mr. Genachowski usurp congressional authority and federal antitrust laws.

Mr. Goodlatte, who is chairman of the House Judiciary panel that oversees Internet issues, said the FCC had overstepped its bounds.

I believe a light-touch, antitrust-based approach will best protect a competitive, innovative and open Internet, he said Thursday.

Rep. Darrell E. Issa questioned whether Mr. Genachowski's FCC had the authority to tell Internet providers how to manage their networks.

You sell [spectrum], and then you want to tell them how to use it, the California Republican said.

On a largely party-line vote last month, the House voted 240 to 179 to repeal the FCC regulations, but the agency has the support of the Democrat-controlled Senate and of President Obama, who appointed Mr. …