House Democrats 'troubled' by Verizon's First Amendment claim against FCC

Energy and Commerce Committee members meet to discuss concerns

Staffers and Democratic members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee met Wednesday to discuss Verizon's (NYSE: VZ) challenge to the FCC's Open Internet Order, also known as net neutrality.

According to an article in Broadcasting & Cable, the representatives and staffers are "troubled by Verizon's assertion that it has the First Amendment right to decide what goes over their networks" and argue that if the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit agreed with the telco, it would be difficult for Congress to enforce wireline and wireless communications policy.

Several different groups, including technology investors, computer network engineers and consumer advocates have spoken out in support of the FCC and against Verizon, according to Bloomberg BNA. There are no oral arguments scheduled for the case yet.

Panelists at a Brookings Institute event, "Internet Everywhere: Broadband as a Catalyst for the Digital Economy," on Tuesday expressed differing positions on net neutrality. Blair Levin, a communications and society fellow with The Aspen Institute, said he had not yet made up his mind.

"I go back and forth on whether you're better off setting a clear rule or having a rule of reason," Levin said. "We might well be better off with a rule of reason."

Panelist Thomas Hazlett, professor of law and economics at George Mason University and director of the Information Economy Project, urged the FCC to"take this moment... to think big about this transition from the copper world to the all-IP world."

"This world is changing rapidly," he added. "I think net neutrality and the Open Internet Order are a problem, and the world would be much better to go back to where we were, which was an anti-trust regime."

Jim Cicconi, senior executive vice president at AT&T (NYSE: T), said at the event that he believed the most important consideration was the overall role of the FCC.

"Increasingly we find the Commission kind of stretching its authority and [getting] incentives to do that by external pressures," Cicconi said, adding that as long as the market is functioning healthily, "the Commission's role should be much more focused on leveling the playing field for protecting customers… against market failure."

For more:
- Broadcasting & Cable has this article
- the Brookings Institute held this event
- check out Bloomberg BNA's piece

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