House GOP warns FCC could 'derail' Internet

Top House Republicans are telling the Federal Communications Commission to tread lightly with new rules governing the way Internet companies treat customers.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) warned FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler on Wednesday that issuing expansive rules would “needlessly inhibit the creation of American private sector jobs, limit economic freedom and innovation, and threaten to derail one of our economy’s most vibrant sectors.”

“The Commission should be focused on unleashing the full job-creating potential of the private sector, including the Internet, rather than stifling such growth through expansions of federal power,” the four wrote in a letter on Wednesday.

On Thursday, the FCC will vote to move forward with new net neutrality regulations preventing Internet service providers from blocking some websites. The draft rules would also allow Web providers to make deals with companies to give users faster access to their sites.

Democrats, major Internet firms and online activists have vigorously protested the proposal, which they warn would create a “two-tiered” Internet with “fast lanes” for wealthy corporations and slower speeds for everybody else.

Some of them have increasingly urged the FCC to reclassify broadband Internet as a “telecommunications service,” like traditional phone lines, instead of an “information service,” as it is currently regarded. Changing the status of the Internet would allow the FCC to impose stricter rules for traffic online.

Wheeler has maintained that the option is on the table, but it would be a bold step that would enflame GOP critics.

In their letter, the four Republican House leaders told him to reject it out of hand.

The Internet helps billions of people and has become a global economic success, they wrote.

Making an aggressive move to reclassify broadband could “set back this progress and impose on broadband rules designed for the old-fashioned, monopoly-era phone service,” they added.