Net neutrality deal collapses

Posted by Emma Woollacott

A last attempt at a compromise on net neutrality has come to nothing, with the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Henry Waxman, saying he's been unable to drum up any support from Republicans.

Waxman had been hoping to come up with a compromise that would have served as an interim measure until Congress had properly considered the issue.

His proposal would have prevented broadband providers - but not mobile operators - from blocking legal but bandwidth-hogging websites and prioritizing other traffic. Mobile providers would have been given two years' grace before reclassification was reconsidered.

"This legislative initiative was predicated on going forward only if we had full bipartisan support in our Committee. We included the Republican staff in our deliberations and made clear that we were prepared to introduce our compromise legislation if we received the backing of Ranking Member Barton and Ranking Member Stearns," says Waxman in a statement.

"With great regret, I must report that Ranking Member Barton has informed me that support for this legislation will not be forthcoming
at this time."

The collapse of the proposals is only a partial victory for phone and cable companies, who say they need to be able to prioritize traffic in order to manage their systems effectively - and that, having spent billions on upgrading to broadband, they need to be able to offer higher-cost premium services.

But without a decision from the House, the whole issue could be thrown back in the lap of the Federal Communications Commission, which could prove even tougher on the brodband companies.

"This development is a loss for consumers and a gain only for the extremes. We need to break the deadlock on net neutrality so that we can focus on building the most open and robust Internet possible," says Waxman.

"The bottom line is that we must protect the open internet. If Congress can’t act, the FCC must."

Advocacy group Public Knowledge agrees, saying that those who scuppered the proposals must now accept the consequences. "The FCC must act now to protect consumers by reinstating its authority over broadband," says president Gigi Sohn.

“We can wait no longer. We expect those members of Congress who argued that it was Congress’ duty to set telecommunications policy would recognize the authority of the FCC in the absence of legislation.”