The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filed a final version of its net neutrality rules Thursday, one year after they voted to pass the framework defining the principles of an ‘open Internet.’ The vote on the framework was passed on partisan lines, 3-2.
The rules, published on the Federal Register’s website, will go into effect November 20th. Touted as a major victory for a free and open Internet by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, Republicans have begun building a last-ditch challenge to a principle they believe will kill markets.
Net neutrality, the principle that network providers should not restrict the content it provides to its customers, has been a hotly debated topic since the rise of the Internet as a commercial and information force. Advocates for net neutrality argue that information is a right, not a resource, and attempts to “tier” data usage will create artificial scarcity. Opponents of the principle, however, state that charging for the amount of data consumed is a fair way to distribute Internet access and usage.
Genachowski has long pushed for net neutrality, calling it a “quality — a generative power — that must be preserved and protected.”
In a speech announcing the passage of the rule, he defended it as the foundation for “the Internet’s openness and freedom — the ability to speak, innovate, and engage in commerce without having to ask anyone’s permission — that has enabled the Internet’s unparalleled success.”
Republicans have long opposed net neutrality, and after the FCC filed the rule, Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison called on her colleagues to overturn the ruling via resolution. “I’m very disappointed that the FCC has decided to move forward with its misguided net neutrality order,” she said in a statement. “Companies and industries that use broadband communications have flourished over the last decade without government intervention, yet the FCC has chosen to ‘fix’ a problem that does not exist.”
Tennessee Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who had voted for a House resolution to overturn the rule, supported Hutchison’s call for a Senate resolution. “The FCC is in essence building an Internet Iron Curtain that will restrict more of our freedom,” she said in a statement. (RELATED: FCC eliminates remaining Fairness Doctrine rules)
However, it is unlikely that a congressional resolution will successfully overturn the FCC ruling. For one, a resolution needs to be passed with a majority in order to take effect — an improbability in a Democrat-controlled Senate. Secondly, President Barack Obama, a proponent of net neutrality and an old friend of Genachowski, has the power to veto the resolution should it come across his desk.
A stronger challenge to the rule may come through the courts, with major network providers likely filing lawsuits. Earlier this year, Verizon and MetroPCS had filed a suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals, but the case was thrown out because the rulings had not been finalized and published yet.