The White House puts the net neutrality decision on the shoulders of the FCC

Who will decide how the Internet is governed?

As Republicans in Washington are scurrying to put together a bill that would define how the Internet gets regulated, the White House says legislation is not needed to settle the score on net neutrality. The Obama administration says that the Federal Communications Commission has the authority to define net neutrality rules, citing Title II.

"In terms of legislation, we don't believe it's necessary given that the FCC has the authorities that it needs under Title II," a White House official told Reuters.

Republicans who have staunchly opposed net neutrality rules did a 180 on Wednesday to propose competing legislation on how Internet traffic should be governed. The FCC is proposing that broadband should be regulated as a utility.

What's at stake

At the heart of the debate is whether the government should have rules to regulate how ISPs handle web traffic. Last November, President Obama endorsed the idea that Internet service providers provide equal access to content and applications without forcing certain content providers, such as Netflix, to pay a premium for faster delivery.

Internet providers oppose regulation, arguing that this would create a burden that stifles innovation.

Republican proposal

Rather than handing over the debate to the FCC, the Republican-drafted legislation adopts many of the same net neutrality principles but strips away the FCC's power to reclassify Internet access under Section 706.

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce John Thune said that the legislation would require transparency, apply to both wired and wireless broadband, protect consumers, classify Internet access as an information service under the Communications Act, clarify that Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act may not be used to grant regulatory authority, and prohibit paid prioritization, throttling, and blocking.

The FCC vote


FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is scheduled to unveil his net neutrality proposal on February 5, which will be voted by the commission on February 26.