Senate Commerce Panel Chairman Criticizes FCC

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., blasted all five members of the Federal Communications Commission appearing before the Senate Commerce Committee he chairs, calling the FCC a "potentially threatening and unpredictable agency."

Thune made it clear from the outset Wednesday that he was not enthusiastic about the FCC's vote in February to protect Net neutrality by classifying Internet broadband as a public utility.

"The FCC sits right in the middle of AmericaEUs digital world," Thune said in his opening remarks. "And this is even more true following the FCCEUs recent decision to turn our nationEUs broadband Internet infrastructure into a public utility.

"As is apparent from that action last month, the FCC is also a potentially threatening and unpredictable agency as it struggles to operate under legal authority designed nearly 100 years ago and not seriously updated in decades."

Will Congress Overrule the FCC?

Since January, when the FCC made it clear that it was actively considering reclassification of broadband, Thune has been working on legislation to address concerns about Internet fairness without requiring utility-style oversight. Specifically, the legislation would maintain the core principles adopted by the FCC -- no blocking of Web sites, no Web traffic slowdowns, and no paid prioritization (i.e., "fast lanes") -- while eliminating what Republicans view as the potential for increased consumer taxes and regulatory uncertainty.

The Republican proposal was tabled Wednesday, in part because Thune was unable to attract any Democratic support for his legislation. Comments by two committee Democrats, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida and Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, suggested they might be open to a possible legislative solution. No specific timeline was announced during the meeting.

Thune acknowledged his proposal needed work.

"Like most first drafts," the committee chairman said, "our draft bill is not perfect. I invite members of this committee and stakeholders from across the political spectrum to...

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