This was a procedural vote on a resolution setting a time limit for debate and prohibiting amendments to legislation overturning federal “network neutrality” rules. (“Network Neutrality” refers to a regulation prohibiting Internet service companies from giving preferential treatment to online content providers that pay more for faster service.) If passed, this particular procedural motion--known as the “previous question"--effectively ends debate and brings the pending legislation to an immediate vote.
Supporters of network neutrality argued that allowing major high-speed Internet companies such as Verizon and AT&T to charge Web site owners higher fees for faster service would lead to an essentially “two-tiered” system. In other words, content providers with more money would thrive as a result of being able to pay for faster service. Less affluent web site owners, meanwhile, could see their traffic slow to a crawl as a result of slower, cheaper service.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC--which regulates interstate and international communication) had imposed network neutrality rules on Internet service providers in 2010. The underlying legislation would have overturned the FCC’s rule.
Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) urged support for the resolution and the underlying bill: “…The underlying bill…disapproves of the December 21 FCC rule concerning net neutrality on the basis that Congress did not authorize the FCC to regulate in this area….This bill today is about congressional prerogative: Will we or will we not stand up to an executive branch that does not have the authority to regulate?...Until Congress acts to delegate that responsibility [authorize the FCC to issue such a regulation], the Internet should continue as the Internet has grown and always continued as an area free of government interference, as an opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors and students and the elderly to be out there using the Internet as they see fit, free from the hand of government regulation.”
[If the underlying bill “disapproving” of the FCC policy were to be enacted, it would overturn network neutrality rules. As a result, internet service companies would have been able to provide superior service to companies who could afford to pay for it (thus creating a two-tiered internet system).]
Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) opposed the resolution and the underlying legislation: “…The majority brings to the floor legislation that will harm the open Internet. I can speak to this with some degree of authority. Before I came to Congress, I created over 300 jobs myself through founding several Internet-related companies, including ProFlowers.com and BlueMountain.com….When I was starting a flower company, ProFlowers.com, back in the late 1990s, we offered a supply-chain solution. We brought fresher flowers to people at a better price by disintermediating the supply chain and allowing consumers to buy flowers directly from growers. Now, we were up against several legacy companies, companies such as FTD, that had a different distribution model that we believed and argued in the marketplace was a less efficient distribution model. Now, had there not been a de facto net neutrality at that point, it would be very difficult for a new company to break in, because you would have had the incumbent leaders in the marketplace buying the access through the broadband connections…”
The House agreed to the previous question motion by a vote of 241-175. All 238 Republicans present and 3 Democrats voted “yea.” 175 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House proceeded to a final vote on a resolution setting a time limit for debate and prohibiting amendments to legislation overturning federal “network neutrality” rules.