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Baker: Net Neutrality Rule Costs Could Be Dramatic

"How do we craft the regulatory environment that will incent broadband deployment to extend networks deeper into communities; to upgrade networks for next-generation services; and to foster broadband competition?," Republican FCC Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker plans to ask, rhetorically, of a House Communications Subcommittee panel.

Her answer: Not by passing the network neutrality rules the FCC's majority approached over her and fellow Republican Robert McDowell's objections.

That is according to copies of written testimony obtained by B&C/Multi of her testimony. Speaking the Committee Republican majority's language, Baker said the costs of the new regs and government "micromanagement" of the net could be "dramatic," and could hurt consumers if network upgrades are delayed or scrapped.

Subcommittee Chair Greg Walden (R-Ore.) has said that he thinks the FCC overstepped its bounds and has vowed to block implementation of the rules.

Rather than the regulatory certainty FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski plans to talk about in defending the rules at the same hearing, Baker says the open-ended decision will breed more uncertainty. "Congress has given the Commission clear statutorily mandated responsibilities, and Net Neutrality is not one of those," she says.

She also argues that the FCC's priority on net neutrality rules diverted resources away from broadband deployment, calling it one of the "gravest consequences" of network neutrality debate.

While including his lengthy and extremely critical network neutrality dissent as part of the record, McDowell's testimony accentuates the positive. He talks about the current booming state of the broadband market thanks to private investment. He points out that the U.S. already leads the world in 4G broadband deployment and adoption (which the White House wants to goose with billions of dollars in subsidies). HE also points out that the vast majority of FCC decisions are bipartisan and unanimous.

"Obviously, we have had a few respectful disagreements as well, such as our differences concerning the new regulations of Internet network management," he says, then refers them to his dissenting statement, which called the vote one of the FCC's darkest days in recent memory. Nonetheless, he says, "I am confident that the five of us have the ability and desire to continue to find common ground on an array of other issues that touch the lives of every American every day."