Dem Senators Pen Letter Admonishing House Net Neutrality Amendment

A group of Democratic senators sent a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., asking them to protect the Federal Communications Commission's efforts to implement the net neutrality rules it passed in December.

An amendment to the Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government that recently passed in the House calls for all funding for the FCC's implementation of net neutrality to be withheld. The Senate has yet to debate the measure.

Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Al Franken, D-Minn., signed on to the letter that also mentions efforts to permanently defund net neutrality implementation through a Congressional Review Act.

"We write to object strongly to the use of the appropriations process or the Congressional Review Act to keep the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from doing its job," the letter says. "We ask you to object to any similar efforts here in the Senate. Such action aims to strip the FCC of its legal authority over modern communications and hand control of the Internet over to the owners of the wires that deliver information and services over them."

But Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., a coauthor of the amendment with Rep. Greg Walden, D-Ore., disagrees, saying the FCC has overstepped its bounds with the net neutrality decision and that the Web "does not need to be regulated by an unelected group of federal bureaucrats."

"Before imposing any regulation on the Internet, it should be authorized and approved by Congress, and only after holding deliberative hearings and with a vote by elected officials," Stearns said in a statement following the amendment's passage.

The senators' letter counters that idea saying it handcuffs the FCC, keeping if from fulfilling its mission.

"We are willing and interested in working with our colleagues on modernization of the Communications Act," the letter said. "But that does not mean that the agency should stop doing its job under current law."

In December FCC commissioners voted to approve net neutrality in a 3-2, party-line vote.

Net neutrality affects communication companies that run information networks allowing the Internet to function. It would require them to treat all information flowing through their systems equally, giving them less control over the content that passes through. Some say that makes the FCC a cop regulating Internet traffic.