By Susan Ferrechio
With the Federal Communications Commission poised Thursday to impose unprecedented regulations on the Internet, congressional Republicans have quietly backed down on a plan to block the looming FCC rules ahead of time with their own legislation.
Republican lawmakers blamed Obama administration officials, who they say have interfered in bipartisan talks to produce legislation that would ban some of the onerous practices the FCC seeks to stop, but with far less government regulation than the pending agency rules proposed.
“The Democrats have been pushed away from negotiating with us,” Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., said.
Thune said he’s unsure when Republicans will produce a bill but he said it will have to wait until after Thursday, when the FCC is scheduled to vote on a package of far-reaching regulations aimed at establishing “net neutrality” for Internet users.
According to Thune, the Obama administration and FCC officials swayed Democrats not to talk to the GOP about legislation until after the FCC votes.
Central to the FCC’s proposed rules is a plan to reclassify the Internet as a public utility, a move that would introduce an unprecedented layer of government regulation to the broadband Internet industry.
President Obama has pushed for the reclassification, which he said is needed to ensure a fair and open Internet. But critics say it will stifle innovation and increase fees and taxes by imposing on the industry a 1934 government regulation meant for managing large utilities, such as the old telephone companies.