The Republican win in the House could make it difficult for the FCC to push ahead with its net neutrality agenda.
The GOP is set to take over the influential House Energy and Commerce Committee, which tried to introduce net neutrality legislation earlier this year under the leadership of committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.).
Joe Barton (R-Texas), a ranking Republican member of the committee, helped kill Waxman’s net neutrality bill in September and is now jockeying for leadership of the committee. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), both staunch opponents of the FCC’s net neutrality and Title II reclassification proposals, are also reportedly vying for the position. Stearns was behind a proposal introduced last spring which would have made it difficult for the FCC to pass net neutrality regulations.
The FCC’s agenda also suffered a blow from the ousting of Rick Boucher (D-Va.), who leads the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet. Boucher, who lost the election to Virginia’s House Republican leader Morgan Griffith, was a supporter of net neutrality and reform of the universal service fund.
Though the FCC is an independent agency and could push ahead with its net neutrality agenda without political support, such a scenario seems unlikely given the lack of momentum on the issue even before the elections, says Art Brodsky, director of communications at Public Knowledge, a Washington, D.C.-based public interest group that has lobbied in favor of the FCC’s net neutrality agenda.
“You could almost say it doesn’t really matter what happens in the election because nothing happened before and it’s highly unlikely that anything will happen now,” Brodsky says. “Genachowski is reticent to make any major decisions and that will probably continue.”
Rob Atkinson, founder and president of Washington, D.C.-based technology policy think tank the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, agrees with Brodsky. “I think it’s unlikely the chairman will do anything,” he says. “He’ll alienate House leadership and I don’t know why he’d want to fight that fight.”
It also appears that there will be little movement on the legislative side of the equation. With Democrats still in control of the Senate, it’s unlikely that Republican lawmakers will be able to pass legislation that would make it harder for the FCC to enact net neutrality regulations.
The wireless industry has been pushing the FCC to drop its net neutrality plans for mobile operators, arguing that spectrum-based broadband Internet services should be treated differently from wireline-based services. Genachowski appeared to be receptive to the industry’s claims when the agency decided to look into the matter earlier this fall, though momentum for his net neutrality plans appears to have waned amid furious lobbying on both sides of the issue.
Filed Under: Industry regulations