WH will veto legislation to overturn FCC Internet regulation

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
Font Size:

The White House delivered a widely expected statement Tuesday, saying that it will veto any legislation to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s “Open Internet” regulations.

Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison recently called that legislation a “jobs proposal,” stating to a D.C. audience that net neutrality sets up the FCC as the Internet’s government gatekeeper and would hamper private sector growth.

Obama delivered a speech in 2007 in Silicon Valley stating that he would “take a back seat to no one” in his “commitment to network neutrality,” a principle that has been a priority of his administration’s FCC, which is led by Obama’s law-school buddy, Julius Genachowski.

The principle of net neutrality — voted into policy by Democrats in December 2010 along partisan lines — considers Internet Service Providers at an advantage over content providers, application developers and device makers, and therefore seeks to neutralize that advantage. Conservatives counter that the Internet’s massive success is essentially due to a lack of government intervention in the marketplace, and that the government is not needed to protect continued success.

A 2010 study reported that net neutrality could cost the economy at minimum 502,000 jobs and “have a negative impact on U.S. gross domestic product on the order of approximately $62 billion per year.”

The proposed legislation would remove any force of the FCC rule, but even if it passes, the Senate’s Republican-led effort to overturn the FCC rule is predestined to be vetoed. The House passed their own version of the bill in April.

“If the president is presented with [the law], which would not safeguard the free and open Internet, his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the resolution,” the White House said in a statement.

Democratic Sen. John Kerry stated in a letter to colleagues last Friday that if the effort to overturn the FCC regulation is successful, “it will stifle innovation and discourage investment in the next potential Google or Amazon.”

Supporters of the FCC’s regulation in the blogosphere regularly cite Comcast’s management of network traffic — also called “throttling” — with BitTorrent users in 2007 as proof of past Internet service providers’ interference.

BitTorrent, a file-sharing protocol for the Internet, is regularly utilized by users of sites like The Pirate Bay to share files with other users. The Pirate Bay is considered a BitTorrent search engine. Another such search engine is LimeWire. The tech blog, TorrentFreak, reported in the Comcast incident that users were unable to upload — or seed — content to their network. (RELATED: UK music industry: Block The Pirate Bay)

Data from Google’s M-Lab measured between 2008 and 2010 indicates that Internet service providers largely do not engage in throttling, having decreased the practice exponentially since 2008. A recent report issued in October by Sandvine, a broadband network solutions provider used by Comcast during the throttling incident, however, said that during peak hours, 47.55 percent of upstream — or uploading — traffic is from BitTorrent users in the United States. By comparison, Xbox Live users consist of 1.31 percent of peak hour upstream Internet traffic, and YouTube users 1.64 percent of peak hour upstream Internet traffic.

The White House said in the statement that the FCC’s rule “reflected a constructive effort to build a consensus around what safeguards and protections were reasonable and necessary to ensure that the Internet continues to attract investment and to spur innovation.”

Moderate Maine Republican, Sen. Olympia Snowe, on the other hand, called the rule a “a parceling together of fragmented provisions in the telecommunications statute and last year’s D.C. Court’s Comcast decision.”

In 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia vacated the FCC’s 0rder, in which the agency claimed the Communications Act of 1934 gave it “ancilliray authority” to regulate Comcast’ Internet service. The court held that the agency failed “to tie its assertion of ancillary authority over Comcast’s Internet service to any ‘statutorily mandated responsibility.'”

Follow Josh on Twitter