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Congress’ Takeover of Net Neutrality Is Dead

Henry Waxman says he has had failed to win over enough GOP support to his compromise to take the issue out of the FCC’s hands

There isn’t going to be a net neutrality compromise in Washington, after all.

An effort in the House of Representatives to take the issue out of the hands of the Federal Communications Commission has fallen apart.

Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, acknowledged Thursday that he had failed to win over enough GOP support to his compromise. As a result, he is abandoning plans to move forward, at least for the moment. The House is due to leave Washington later this week until a lame duck session after the election.

The compromise would have barred the FCC from regulating the internet as a phone service, but put net neutrality-like conditions on providers of wired connections and lesser restrictions on providers of wireless connections. It would have left the FCC as mostly a policeman, levying fines on rules-breakers.

U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, the ranking Republican on the committee, Thursday rejected that plan.

Barton said that Republicans agree the FCC shouldn’t regulate the internet as a phone service, but also think the web shouldn’t be subject to any net neutrality-like conditions.

“It is not appropriate to give the FCC authority to regulate the internet. If the Congress wants to prevent the FCC reclassifying internet service, it should go ahead and do so without qualification,” he said in a statement. “This is not a solution for the future of the Internet. America should be about preserving the vibrant and competitive free market that exists for the internet and other interactive computer services, unfettered by federal or state regulation.”

Waxman said that he had worked hard to win over GOP support.

“Under this proposal, both sides would emerge as winners.  Consumers would win protections that preserve the openness of the Internet, while the Internet service providers would receive relief from their fears of reclassification,” he said.

He called the lack of a bipartisan agreement “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.”

Waxman said if there can be no Congressional agreement, the FCC must act and reclassify the internet as a phone service.

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

Waxman said he was hopeful that “cooler heads may prevail after the election.”