Vote aims to overturn controversial regulations that prevent internet providers from charging fees for premium services
House Republicans voted Friday to overturn controversial regulations that prevent Internet providers from charging fees for premium services or enacting tolls on digital content.
The final vote was 240 to 179.
The hotly contested measure takes place in the shadow of a congressional standoff that may lead to a government shutdown.
It's the second step House Republicans have taken to demonstrate their overwhelming dislike of the Federal Communications Commission's neutrality anti-discrimination safeguards.
Approved on a mostly party line vote, the "resolution of disapproval" could stop the FCC rule from taking effect.
In February, House Republicans approved a spending-bill amendment that would prevent the FCC from using federal funding to enforce its regulations.
Like that vote, Friday’s action appears to likely to have little effect. Senate Democrats oppose the measure and President Obama, a supporter of net neutrality has promised to veto it, but that didn't stop House Republicans from railing against the FCC and its chairman, Julius Genachowski in the debate.
“Well, Mr. Chairman the Internet is not broken and this bill will ensure that the FCC does not break it,” Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) said. “If we allow the FCC to seize control of the Internet it's going to reduce innovation and investment.”
But Democrats countered that the regulations were a necessary safeguard to prevent internet providers from exploiting customers.
“This bill is partisan. It is anti-innovation, and it threatens to transform the Internet into a series of walled gardens controlled by the phone and cable companies,",” Rep. Harry Waxman (D- Calif.) said.
Democrats went on to accuse Republicans in the House of siding with big business and limiting competition in the technology industry.
"They want to spoil mother earth and Google Earth all within a 24 hour period,” Rep. Edward Markey (D – Mass.) said.
Public interest groups concerned with Internet freedoms slammed the House decision following Friday's vote.
"It is a shame that the House is focused on protecting the interests of large telecommunications companies rather than on promoting the interests of innovative entrepreneurs," Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge, said in a statement.
Friday's vote is not the only potential legislative roadblock to the FCC's authority. House Republicans have also attached a rider to their budget proposal that would strip funding for the FCC's regulations.
The FCC's net neutrality rule would prevent Internet service providers from giving favored content partners a faster or more robust path to consumer's doorsteps. Consumer groups say it will ensure that upstart websites can continue to compete on equal terms with Internet giants, thereby keeping the Internet as a thriving engine of U.S. economic growth.
Some cable and internet providers and House Republicans contend it instead puts the FCC in the position of regulating the now unregulated Internet and could prevent investment in needed upgrade by preventing internet service providers from charging extra for services.
Net neutrality could play a key impact in the movie and TV industry, where some Internet service providers have talked of charging video services extra for priority traffic treatment that would ensure viewers see video without glitches or breaks. Consumer groups have warned that without net neutrality, favored partners would get the priority, that independent sites would have a tough time matching.
The vote comes on the heels of a limited victory on the part of the FCC. On Monday, the D.C. Court of Appeals dismissed a suit from Verizon aimed at overturning the FCC's rules. In its decision, the court said that the companies needed to wait until the new regulations were published in the Federal Register before any appeal could be heard.
Cassie M. Chew contributed to this report.
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