Majority of Voters Oppose FCC's Net Neutrality Rules

A majority of American voters are against efforts by the FCC to regulate the Internet, a new Rasmussen poll finds.

Fifty-four percent of likely U.S. voters are opposed to the Federal Communications Commission's regulation of the Internet in the same way it does radio and television. Only 21 percent of those surveyed support the Internet regulation and 25 percent say they are not sure.

The issue of net neutrality has gone largely unnoticed by the public. Only 20 percent say they are very closely following net neutrality while 35 percent say they are following the issue somewhat closely.

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Last week, the FCC voted three to two in favor of "net neutrality" rules that would allow the agency to regulate how Internet service providers manage their networks.

Under net neutrality, internet service providers must provide equal access to all legal Web content on their networks.

Supporters of Internet regulation say rules are needed to prevent Internet providers from blocking competitive content and to allow equal access regardless of how big or small content providers are. But opponents of net neutrality argue that regulation would stifle innovation and that network operators should be able to charge more for a high-speed access lane.

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

Net neutrality rules could over-regulate and slow capital investment in the Internet and prevent breakthrough innovations such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, which help NRB members in their mission to spread the gospel.

The rules could also stifle free speech depending on how the FCC defines "reasonable network management" in discussing the possibility of broadband providers blocking Internet access.

"Instead of creating a neutral platform for all comers, a neutral marketplace of all viewpoints, they've actually empowered Internet service providers to censor out viewpoints they don't like as long it's 'reasonable network management,'" said Craig Parshall, senior vice president and general counsel of NRB, last week.

The Rasmussen poll finds that Republicans and unaffiliated voters are overwhelmingly opposed to net neutrality rules, but frequent Internet users were the most against the regulations.

About 56 percent of voters, including most Republicans and unaffiliated voters, believe the FCC would use its regulatory authority to promote political agenda. But half of that number, 28 percent, and a plurality of Democrats believe the agency would regulate in an unbiased manner.

Republican lawmakers plan to repeal the FCC's net neutrality rules in the next Congress, with critics questioning whether the agency even has authority to enforce the rules.

Although most Americans oppose internet regulation, 55 percent continue to favor FCC regulations of radio and TV.

The Rasmussen Reports result are based on a survey of 1,000 likely voters nationwide conducted on Dec. 23, 2010.

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