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Anti-Net Neutrality Bill Introduced in House

As promised, House Republicans have not left the FCC's net neutrality rules unchallenged in the new Congress, backing a bill that would invalidate the federal agency's new regulations over the Web.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) on Wednesday filed the Internet Freedom Act which states that the authority to regulate the Internet rests with Congress, not the FCC.

The bill is co-signed by more than 60 legislators, including the majority of Republican members on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

"The only sector of our economy showing growth is online. In these times, for an unelected bureaucracy with dubious jurisdiction and misplaced motives to unilaterally regulate that growth is intolerable," said Blackburn on Wednesday. "The internet is more than a communications platform with modems, fiber, and e-mail. It is a marketplace; one that should be kept free."

Last month, the FCC voted 3-2 to approve net neutrality regulations, with the three Democrat commissioners making up the majority of the vote.

The rules would require internet providers to treat all legal content equally and prevent them from blocking competitive content or charging sites more for a high-speed access lane.

While supporters of the regulation say it would protect new businesses using the Web, critics argue that the regulation would stifle innovation and impede on the internet service providers' plans to expand their broadband networks and boost speed.

Public interest groups have expressed dissatisfaction over the rules, saying more regulation is needed over wireless providers in order to protect consumers.

The National Religious Broadcasters, the nation's largest group of Christian broadcasters, meanwhile, warns that net neutrality rules might pose problems for communicating the gospel on the Internet and new media technologies.

Blackburn, who introduced a similar bill last year, sees the legislation as an intermediate step in repealing the FCC's net neutrality regulation.

"I agree that the Internet faces a number of challenges," she said. "Only Congress can address those challenges without compounding them. Until we do, the FCC and other federal bureaucracies should keep their hands off the 'net.'"

On Wednesday, the FCC announced its Open Internet Apps Challenge, a contest that calls on developers to create apps that would help broadband consumers monitor their providers' compliance with net neutrality rules. The apps would provide "users with real-time data about their fixed or mobile broadband Internet connection, as well as Internet-wide patterns and trends based on aggregate data."

Research papers that analyze Internet openness measurements and techniques will also be accepted as part of the FCC challenge.

A Rasmussen poll in December found that 54 percent of likely U.S. voters are opposed to the FCC's regulation of the Web. Only 21 percent wanted the government to handle the Internet in the same way it does radio or television.

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