Republicans Aim to Block the FCC's Net Neutrality Plan

Activists expressed cautious optimism that the GOP doesn't have the votes to prevent the FCC's proposed changes on regulating the Internet.

Visitors use the computers inside the Telcel's Digital Village hosted by Telmex and Telcel, and powered by Infinitum, is free and open to the public from April 11 to April 27. Telmex plans to install more than 125 kilometers of fiber optic cable to create a network in the Zocalo where attendees can participate in a wide variety of activities consisting of courses, workshops, conferences, contests and IT project incubation in Mexico City, Mexico on Friday, April 11, 2014.

Photographer: Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg

The good news for advocates of net neutrality is that FCC chairman Tom Wheeler announced his intention on Wednesday to regulate the Internet as a public utility. The bad news for that crowd is that Congressional Republicans seem dead set on stopping him. 

"I am submitting to my colleagues the strongest open internet protections ever proposed by the FCC," Wheeler wrote in an op-ed in Wired published Wednesday. "These enforceable, bright-line rules will ban paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services."

Those protections, which mirror those favored by President Obama, would prevent companies like Comcast and Verizon from blocking content or establishing so-called Internet fast lane pricing structures. But the reclassification of high speed Internet service as a telecommunications service does not sit well with many Republicans in Congress, who have begun working a way to try and block the FCC from carrying out Wheeler's plan as they believe it will stifle innovation and result in higher taxes.  

"Chairman Wheeler's proposal to regulate the Internet as a public utility is not about net neutrality—it is a power grab for the federal government by the chairman of a supposedly independent agency who finally succumbed to the bully tactics of political activists and the president himself," said Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune in a statement.

Oregon Representative Greg Walden, the head of the House subcommittee on Communications and Technology, also sounded the alarm on the proposed changes. 

“Folks, we’re talking about the future of the Internet here,” Walden said Wednesday. “Likely just three commissioners at the FCC are about to decide the Internet’s future behind closed doors for no one to see, until long after the decisions are made.” 

On Reddit, meanwhile, the activist community staunchly behind net neutrality debated whether a celebration was in order, or whether Republicans could actually pass a veto-proof bill that would prevent the FCC from taking action. 

"Once the bill is passed, the president has only 10 days to veto," Reddit user putsch80 wrote. "If he doesn't, it becomes law. Even if the FCC could somehow get proposed rules in the federal register prior to that 10 day expiration (highly unlikely), there are mandatory multi-month periods for public comment. There is no guarantee that the final regulations would look anything like the proposed regs. There is literally no possible way for the final regs to come into effect before the bill could be on Obama's desk to force him to either veto it or let it pass."

"True, but vetoing sends it back to Congress to be reworked," Treacherous_Peach responded. "Republicans don't have the majority to overrule the veto and any change to the document at all, even a punctuation mark sends it back to the first round of passing. It'll go all the way back to the house, then the Senate, and then the president. Stalling is pretty easy."

"The president can stall as long as he wants, but his term is going to end eventually. Obama may be down for the endless veto game, but will the next guy?" TrainOfThought6 asked. 

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