Senate’s top Democrat backs tough Web rules

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is putting his weight behind regulators’ attempts to police the Internet like a utility.

Reid is “in favor of” net neutrality rules under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act, he said during a press conference on Tuesday. Title II of the law outlines rules for “common carrier” utility services such as traditional phone lines.

{mosads}President Obama and many other Democrats have encouraged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to enact those rules — which they are expected to do at a meeting later this month — but the endorsement from Reid will serve as another boost for Democrats on the commission.

Reid has previously said that he supports strong net neutrality provisions but has declined to specifically endorse Title II rules, which have been politically controversial. Republicans who have been critical of the move say that it would allow the FCC to regulate the Internet with an iron fist, which could lead to higher fees and worse service for consumers.

The statement from the Senate’s top Democrat also poses a hurdle to Republican efforts to write net neutrality legislation that explicitly prohibits the FCC from enacting utility-style rules for the Web, while also instituting some new restrictions for Internet service providers such as Comcast or Cox. Democrats have so far resisted endorsing the legislation and instead have urged the FCC to proceed with its action. 

Republicans have hoped that their effort to write a new law would cause the FCC to hold off in its vote, but the commission has shown no signs of pressing pause.

Instead, the FCC appears poised to go ahead with its Feb. 26 vote, over objections from the two Republicans on the five-member commission. 

Tags Harry Reid Net neutrality Network neutrality

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