Republican lawmakers warn FCC against Obama’s Web plan

Key congressional Republicans are warning the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reject President Obama’s call to treat the Internet like a public utility.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (Mich.) and Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneAviation panel recommends Trump roll back safety rules Overnight Regulation: House moves to block methane rule | Senators wrestle with allowing driverless trucks | EPA delays toxic waste rule Overnight Tech: Senate looks at self-driving trucks | Facebook to keep ads off fake news | House panel calls Equifax CEO to testify MORE (S.D.) — the likely future chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee — along with all the other Republicans on the two panels are sending a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler Wednesday warning that the president’s plan is likely illegal.

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“We believe this is beyond the scope of the FCC’s authority and would defy the plain reading of the statute,” the lawmakers told Wheeler, the 41 lawmakers told Wheeler in the letter. 

Reclassifying broadband Internet as a “telecommunications” service instead of an “information” service, which would allow the FCC to tap into the same authority it uses to regulate traditional phone companies, "would threaten the jobs and investment made possible by the broadband industry,” the lawmakers added. They also write that broadband Internet accounts for an estimated 270,000 jobs and more than $193 billion in investment.

GOP committee members also noted that courts have tossed out previous FCC rules both earlier this year and in 2010.

“Call it 'net neutrality' or call it 'the Open Internet,' the result remains the same: two trips to court, two FCC losses, and nine years of uncertainty for the Internet," the Republicans wrote.

The pressure from Capitol Hill comes two days after Obama made a surprising and firm call for the FCC to reclassify broadband Internet service, amid reports that the FCC was considering moving forward with a “hybrid” plan that extended the stronger rules to only some relationships on the Internet.

GOP lawmakers have previously opposed tough rules on Internet service providers, but Wednesday's letter shows the scrutiny that every Republican congressional overseer will be giving the FCC starting next Congress.

--This report was updated at 1:21 p.m.