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A contentious debate boiled over in the U.S. Senate Wednesday, with Kentucky’s senior senator, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell taking the lead in support of a resolution to throw out the Obama administration's "net neutrality" rules before they go into effect November 20.

Mitch McConnell 0609_3.jpgSpeaking in favor of Senate Joint Resolution 6—Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Resolution of Disapproval of the FCC’s Net Neutrality regulations—McConnell said, “While we all understand the importance of an open Internet, I think we can also agree that the growth of the Internet in the last 15 years is an American success story that occurred absent any heavy-handed regulation by the federal regulators in Washington.  We should think long and hard before we allow unelected bureaucrats to tinker with it now.  Everywhere I go in Kentucky, I hear from businesses large and small that they’re struggling to comply with the mountains of rules and regulations coming out of Washington.”

“Net Neutrality” regulations establish a requirement that Internet service providers not block or interfere with their customers' efforts to use the websites, applications and devices of their choice, provided that they're not breaking the law.  Ostensibly, this means giving equal treatment to the data sent and received by similar websites and services.

net neutrality-thumb_0.jpgLast year a federal court ruled that the FCC did not have a legal basis to enforce a “net neutrality” policy, so the Obama administration set about developing formal rules to get around the court’s decision.  In December, a sharply divided commission adopted a new set of net neutrality rules, to go into effect later this month.

Congressional Republicans are trying to overturn the FCC's action through a legislative technique known as a resolution of disapproval. The House passed such a resolution in April on a largely party-line vote, and if it passes this week in the Senate, it will almost certainly face a threatened veto from the president.

Network Neutrality3_1.jpgNet Neutrality continues to be one of President Obama’s most unpopular regulatory schemes. Ninety-five 2010 Congressional candidates signed a pro-Net Neutrality pledge, and all ninety-five lost.  This is probably the reason that congressional Democrats have tried to avoid any up or down vote on the subject, and why President Obama’s FCC rushed to ram it through without debate.

Today, Senator McConnell reminded his colleagues that the President came to the Capitol two months ago, and laid out a very specific test for judging the merits of federal regulation.  “Like most of my colleagues, I applauded when the President told us that, We should have no more regulation than the health, safety and security of the American people require.  Every rule should meet that common-sense test.’  But as it turns out, the FCC didn’t get the memo,” said the senator.

Mitch McConnell smiles_1.jpg“The Net Neutrality regulations we’re debating today clearly fail that common-sense test. They’re a solution in search of a problem,”  McConnell continued, “It is an over-reaching attempt to ‘fix’ the Internet, when the Internet is not broken.  According to the FCC’s own data, 93 percent of broadband subscribers are happy with their service. And if American’s weren’t happy with their provider or felt that the provider was favoring some forms of content over others, they could switch providers.”

McConnell criticized the FCC for saying that regulations are necessary because of what might happen in the future, if broadband providers have incentives to favor one type of content over another, “…despite the fact that after 15 years, there is no evidence of this occurring in any significant way.”   “Instead,” he continued, “the FCC has exceeded its authority to grow the reach of government under the guise of fixing a problem that doesn’t even exist.”  

The senator suggested that the Internet has transformed society; precisely because people have been able to create and innovate, largely free from government intrusion. “Businesses are free to invest and grow on the Internet, safe in the knowledge that consumers and technology will determine their fate, not the whims of Washington regulators,” he explained.

Quoting a study that estimates more than 300,000 jobs could potentially be lost as a result of the new FCC rules, McConnel reminded his fellow senators, “Thankfully, it is not too late to act.  A bipartisan majority in the House voted to overturn these rules earlier this year.   The Senate should take this opportunity to do the same.”

Complete transcript of Senator McConnell’s remarks today:

Let the Internet Flourish Without New Government Regulations

“Later today, the Senate will take up S.J. Res 6, Senator Hutchison’s Resolution of Disapproval of the FCC’s Net Neutrality regulations.

“I want to start by thanking Senator Hutchison for her leadership on this important issue.

“While we all understand the importance of an open Internet, I think we can also agree that the growth of the Internet in the last 15 years is an American success story that occurred absent any heavy-handed regulation by the federal regulators in Washington.

“We should think long and hard before we allow unelected bureaucrats to tinker with it now. Everywhere I go in Kentucky, I hear from businesses large and small that they’re struggling to comply with the mountains of rules and regulations coming out of Washington.

“At a time when the private sector would like to create jobs and grow the economy, it seems like too many in Washington want to create regulations and grow government. And so like many Americans, I was heartened two months ago, when the President came to the Capitol and laid out a very specific test for judging the merits of federal regulation.

“Like most of my colleagues, I applauded when the President told us that, We should have no more regulation than the health, safety and security of the American people require. Every rule should meet that common-sense test.’ But as it turns out, the FCC didn’t get the memo.

“The Net Neutrality regulations we’re debating today clearly fail that common-sense test. They’re a solution in search of a problem.

“It is an over-reaching attempt to ‘fix’ the Internet, when the Internet is not broken.

“According to the FCC’s own data, 93 percent of broadband subscribers are happy with their service. And if American’s weren’t happy with their provider or felt that the provider was favoring some forms of content over others, they could switch providers.

“But now, the FCC says its regulations are necessary because of what might happen in the future, if broadband providers have incentives to favor one type of content over another — despite the fact that after 15 years, there is no evidence of this occurring in any significant way.

“If internet providers were so interested in doing this, wouldn’t they have done it by now?

“Instead, the FCC has exceeded its authority to grow the reach of government under the guise of fixing a problem that doesn’t even exist.

“So why should this matter to anyone?

“Simply, the growth of the Internet is one of the great success stories of our lifetime. Just 15 years ago, the thought that you could read a book, watch a ballgame, and video-conference with your kids all on a device the size of a magazine, I would have been something from science fiction.

“Today it’s reality.

“The Internet has transformed society — precisely because people have been able to create and innovate, largely free from government intrusion.

“Businesses are free to invest and grow on the Internet, safe in the knowledge that consumers and technology will determine their fate, not the whims of Washington regulators.

“This investment in broadband infrastructure is the cornerstone of our high tech economy, which employs nearly 3.5 million Americans.

“But the FCC’s regulations could jeopardize this future growth by dictating what sort of return businesses can earn on their investment.

“As my colleague Senator Hutchison and I recently noted ‘Lower returns mean less investment, which in turn means fewer jobs.’

“Some estimates suggest we could lose 300,000 jobs as a result of these rules.

“Thankfully, it is not too late to act.

“A bipartisan majority in the House voted to overturn these rules earlier this year.

“The Senate should take this opportunity to do the same.

“In order to protect the growth of the Internet and its ability to create the jobs of the future, I encourage my colleagues to support the Hutchison resolution.”

Sen. Hutchison: Internet Regulation Will Hurt the Economy and Innovation

Phil Kerpen and Seton Motley Discuss Senate Net Neutrality Vote

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Louisville.com's The Arena section features opinions from active participants in the city's politics. Their viewpoints are not those of Louisville.com (a website is an inanimate object and, as such, has no opinions).

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About Thomas McAdam

At various times I have been a student, a soldier, a college Political Science teacher, a political campaign treasurer, and legal adviser to Louisville's Police Department and Board of Aldermen. I now practice law and share my political opinions with anyone who will listen.

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