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GOP denounces 'power grab over the Internet'

GOP denounces 'power grab over the Internet'
© Greg Nash

Republican members of Congress are roundly condemning the new net neutrality rules advanced on Thursday by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). 

The agency on Thursday voted to issue “Great Depression-era rules,” 18 Republicans on the House’s Technology subcommittee said in a joint statement, which “will trigger a stampede to the courts, unleashing years of lawsuits and uncertainty at a time when U.S. leadership and the Internet economy are more important than ever.”

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The rules are a “317-page power grab over the Internet,” added Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneMcConnell seeks to end feud with Trump McConnell brushes off Trump's 'son of a b----' comment Democrats work to pick up GOP support on anti-Asian hate crimes bill MORE (R-S.D.), the head of the House Commerce Committee.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell seeks to end feud with Trump Senate GOP signal they won't filibuster debate of hate crimes bill Colin Powell on Afghanistan: 'We've done all we can do' MORE (R-Ky.), meanwhile, said in a speech on the chamber floor that the rules would “strike a blow to the future of innovation in our country.”

The FCC’s 3-2 vote on Thursday issued the toughest net neutrality rules the U.S. has ever seen.

The regulations ban Internet service providers from blocking or slowing people’s access to the Web or from prioritizing one website over another. To accomplish that goal, the agency took the politically controversial step of reclassifying broadband Internet as a telecommunications service under the Communications Act, which dates back to 1934.  

The two Republicans on the FCC voted against the plan, which they called overreach by the agency.

For years, conservatives have bristled at the idea of government involvement in people’s access to the Internet. It works just fine on its own, they argue, so the government should not be butting in.

That rhetoric has amplified in the weeks since President Obama made a vocal call in November for tough net neutrality rules, which some fear led to improper coordination between the White House and the independent FCC.

As the agency was working on the regulations in recent months, however, some Republicans on Capitol Hill begun drafting legislation to create some bright-line prohibitions on what Internet providers can and cannot do, while limiting the FCC’s power in other ways.

Democrats so far have declined to sign on board to that legislation, though some have remained willing to entertain negotiations.

Republicans leading the effort remain hopeful that that might change in the wake of Thursday’s vote and as the issue moves toward an inevitable lawsuit.

“Republicans, Democrats, consumer groups, and investors all agree that we need sustainable protections to preserve the Internet as we know it,” GOP members of the House subcommittee said.

“A 3-2 party-line vote is not the policy consensus this issue deserves.”