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The U.S. Senate on Thursday is set to vote on a Republican backed resolution that would repeal rules passed by the Federal Communications Commission last December that allow the government to set rules for the Internet that similar to the way they exercise control over the broadcast airwaves.
On Tuesday, President Barack Obama promised to veto the resolution, which has already passed the House of Representatives, if it reaches his desk.
What is known as “net neutrality” is something the President has been passionate about since he campaigned for his office prior to the 2008 election. He has continued to make speeches and discuss in interviews his belief that there have to be rules of the road which would limit entities like phone and cable companies from controlling the flow of Internet traffic or imposing fees in order to raise revenues and charge more for those who use the most bandwidth.
On Tuesday, the White House issued a statement saying the President will definitely veto the resolution should it pass. In a statement, the President said he opposed passage because repealing the FCC rules would “undermine a fundamental part of the nation’s Open Internet and innovation strategy – an enforceable, effective but flexible policy for keeping the Internet free and open.”
The FCC rules would impose limits on those companies, but also open the door to other kinds of regulation, warn critics. That is why this legislation, which is supported by phone companies and others, has become a seminal struggle in how users and companies operate in the information age.
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas), who introduced the resolution to repeal the FCC’s authority over the Internet (which has 42 Republican co-sponsors but zero Democratic co-sponsors), has said “If ever there was an ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it situation,’ it is this one. The Internet has flourished; it has created new products, new services, because it is open, because there hasn’t been a gatekeeper.”
She called the FCC rules “an arbitrary standard” that will delay innovation and increase costs to consumers,” adding that it will force companies to “err on the side of caution.”
Supporters of the FCC action, like Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) have said they oppose the Senate resolution, charging that “it will stifle innovation and discourage investment in the next Google or Amazon.”
Kerry said net neutrality rules are needed to prevent Internet service providers from blocking lawful websites or applications that compete with services they offer; and keep them from slowing down or speeding up access to certain web sites for their business purposes.
Kerry also said he fears that if this resolution is passed, it will set a precedent which will lead to passage of other measures that could “risk health rules, environmental protections, worker rights and every other public protection that our agencies enforce that some in Congress do not like.”
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