Despite reports to the contrary, the top Republicans in Congress insist they are not resigning the fight over net neutrality to the FCC.
Following a New York Times report Tuesday alleging congressional Republicans “conceded” the fight over Internet regulations to Democrats and the Obama administration, South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune — who chairs the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee that oversees the FCC — said legislative intervention is coming.
“One way or another, I am committed to moving a legislative solution, preferably bipartisan, to stop monopoly-era phone regulations that harm Internet consumers and innovation,” Thune said in a statement. “Any claims that Republicans have conceded or surrendered to the Obama administration’s power grab of the Internet through FCC action is a mischaracterization of our ongoing efforts.” (RELATED: FCC Commissioner On ‘Revised’ Net Neutrality Plan: ‘I’m Voting No’)
In an earlier comment Thune conceded that such a solution would likely require bipartisan support, and that any bill would be unlikely to pass without Democratic signatures.
Thune along with Senate and House Republicans proposed a bill last month that would ban Internet service providers from blocking content, slowing service speeds or establishing higher-priced fast lanes — the core concerns behind net neutrality advocates.
Despite Congress’ proposal to work with the FCC on a legislative alternative to net neutrality, Chairman Tom Wheeler announced a more aggressive regulatory proposal weeks later, which in effect reclassifies Internet service providers as public utilities, and forces them to comply with government standards for content, speed and price — regulations President Obama called on the agency to adopt in November. (FLASHBACK: Senator Obama: ‘Irresponsible’ For The FCC To Vote On Rules Unreleased To The Public)
The FCC will vote on the adoption of the plan Thursday, despite protest by the five-member commission’s two Republicans, who earlier this week asked Wheeler to release to proposal to the public and postpone the vote to make room for 30 days to receive public feedback. (RELATED: Republican FCC Commissioners Ask Wheeler To Delay Net Neutrality Vote, Release Proposal)
Though the proposal will likely face federal court challenges by ISPs including Verizon and AT&T, Thune said he plans to continue working on legislation to address the issue, which he believes could be easier to tackle after the commission’s vote. (RELATED: A ‘No’ Vote For The FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules Just Became A Possibility)
“Once the rules are made public for review, Sen. Thune is committed to pushing ahead,” Senate Commerce Committee aide Frederick Hill said in a Washington Post report Tuesday. “The FCC’s direction is bad for the Internet and bad for consumers.”
The committee sent out invitations to tech firms Tuesday inviting their input on a future bill to address net neutrality.
“The chairmen have asked us to meet with a broad set of stakeholders, including the diverse Internet company community, to better understand their views on the potential for bipartisan open Internet legislation,” the invitation said.