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McCain introduces bill to block FCC's net neutrality rules

The new legislation would prohibit the agency from moving ahead with proposed regulations

By , IDG News Service
October 22, 2009 01:11 PM ET

IDG News Service - U.S. Senator John McCain has introduced legislation that would block the U.S. Federal Communications Commission from creating new net neutrality rules, on the same day that the FCC took the first step toward doing so.

McCain on Thursday introduced the Internet Freedom Act, which would keep the FCC from enacting rules prohibiting broadband providers from selectively blocking or slowing Internet content and applications. Net neutrality rules would create "onerous federal regulation," McCain said in a written statement.

The FCC on Thursday voted to begin a rulemaking process to formalize net neutrality rules. The rules, as proposed, would allow Web users to run the legal applications and access the legal Web sites of their choice. Providers could use "reasonable" network management to reduce congestion and maintain quality of service, but the rules would require them to be transparent with consumers about their efforts.

The new rules would formalize a set of net neutrality principles in place at the FCC since 2005.

McCain, an Arizona Republican, called the proposed net neutrality rules a "government takeover" of the Internet that will stifle innovation and depress an "already anemic" job market in the U.S. McCain was the Republican challenger to President Barack Obama in the 2008 election, and Obama has said net neutrality rules are among his top tech priorities.

McCain protested the FCC's proposal that wireless broadband providers be included in the net neutrality rules. The wireless industry has "exploded over the past 20 years due to limited government regulation," McCain said in the statement.

"Today I'm pleased to introduce the Internet Freedom Act of 2009 that will keep the Internet free from government control and regulation," McCain said. "It will allow for continued innovation that will in turn create more high-paying jobs for the millions of Americans who are out of work or seeking new employment. Keeping businesses free from oppressive regulations is the best stimulus for the current economy."

It's unclear whether the legislation would pass. Democrats, who generally support net neutrality rules, have majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, but in recent days, more than 70 House Democrats have written the FCC expressing concern over net neutrality regulations.

Elsewhere, reaction to the FCC's decision was mixed.

Supporting net neutrality rules:

-- "Network neutrality protects the fundamental rights of Americans in using the Internet and accessing content, applications, and services of their choice. A well-reasoned network neutrality policy also ensures a level playing field for companies large and small as they create an online presence, and will continue to foster the entrepreneurial innovation found not only in corporate office suites, but in college dorms across the country." -- Statement from Senators Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, and Olympia Snowe, Maine Republican.

-- "It is clear to us that at the end of the proceeding, consumers and innovators will benefit from an open and nondiscriminatory Internet. As a result, the economy will benefit in the future, as it did in the past, from the stability of an Internet that grants equal opportunity to all to participate in an open Internet environment." -- Statement from Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, a digital rights group.

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