US Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) [official website] introduced legislation [text, PDF] Wednesday intended to block the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) [official website] from implementing its National Broadband Plan [official website; materials]. The Freedom for Consumer Choice Act would remove the FCC's ability to declare the actions of a communications provider illegal unless there was a clear showing that the practice causes harm to consumers and will not be corrected by market forces. Additionally, it would force all FCC regulations on providers' activities to expire after five years unless it is found that market forces would not "protect consumers from substantial injury." In explaining the need for the legislation, DeMint stated that it was necessary [press release] to prevent "FCC's rush to takeover the Internet" and stated:
Congress must pass the [act] to protect consumer choice in media services, preserve competition that drives down costs and drives up options, and prevent the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs that the free market Internet economy has created. President Obama's handpicked FCC chairman is attempting to impose unnecessary, antiquated regulations on the Internet in spite of court rulings limiting the FCC's authority, against bipartisan congressional concern over damaging economic consequences, and without any evidence of market failure. The [act] will ensure that the FCC properly uses its rulemaking authority to respond to clear cases of competitive market failure that have proven to harm consumers, and this principle should be the starting point for any debate on Internet governance.The legislation was co-sponsored by six other Republicans. One co-sponsor, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) [official website] described the legislation as "vital to maintaining jobs" [press release]. It comes two months after Representative Cliff Stearns (R-FL) introduced similar legislation [The Hill report] in the House of Representatives.
In April, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski [official profile] testified that the agency will move ahead [JURIST report] with its National Broadband Plan despite a recent court ruling [JURIST report] that it lacks the power to enforce net neutrality [JURIST news archive]. Net neutrality, which is unanimously supported [JURIST report] by the FCC's commissioners, is thought by supporters to be essential to the goal of an open flow of information over the Internet regardless of the amount of revenue generated by the information. Telecommunications companies Verizon, AT&T and Comcast [corporate websites] argue that net neutrality would inhibit their ability to effectively manage Internet traffic. Genachowski said that the FCC's actions, as laid out in the plan will, "protect America's global competitiveness and help deliver the extraordinary benefits of broadband to all Americans." The roadmap, he continued, falls within the framework of the Communications Act of 1934 [text, PDF] as amended in 1996. The FCC sent the plan to Congress [JURIST report] for approval in March.