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Hutchison Wants Some Answers On Net Neutrality

Ranking Senate Commerce Committee Member Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) has sent a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski outlining her concerns over proposed network neutrality rules.

Hutchison's initial reaction to the chairman's announced plans to propose the rules included an amendment that would have blocked their funding. But she held off after the chairman reached out and staffers talked through some of her concerns.

But in the letter Tuesday, she remained concerned and asked for answers to some questions in four main areas of concern. They are the necessity of intervention, the impact of the rules on investment, any potential unintended consequences and "fair application."

She questioned if the FCC already had the authority to enforce its four Internet access principles--Genachowski wants to add two more and codify them all--why it is necessary to conduct a rulemaking, which Genachowski plans to launch next week at the FCC's public meeting.

She said that with those four principles in place "for a number of years," there has been billions invested in wired and wireless broadband, "spurring innovation and access." She says she is worried, as are incumbent networks and many other Republicans, that "a regulatory proceeding at this time creates uncertainty, which in turn will discourage or at least delay planned investment in critical infrastructure."

Hutchison also said she was concerned about applying the new rules to wireless as well as wired broadband. She says that she is a proponent of technological neutrality when it comes to applying regulations, but says that wired and wireless are "quite different." The chairman has said he undestood that and expected the rules to reflect that.

She also says she fears that restrictions on wireless network management will require significant upgrades that will boost prices to consumers or reduce coverage.

Finally, Hutchison wants to know whether open Internet rules will apply "with equal force" to content, applications and software" as well as networks. Genachowksi has said that the FCC's first order of business is to deal with the network "gatekeepers."

Hutchison is looking for a reply by Oct. 21.