Thune: Congress Needs to Settle Net Neutrality Debate

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, took to the Senate floor Tuesday to promote the FCC's upcoming vote to roll back net neutrality regs and to call again for Congress to settle the debate once and for all.

He outlined the history of net regulation as he saw it, saying that the Obama Administration had tried, and then succeeded, in bringing the 'net under unnecessarily tougher regs with the 2015 Title II-based Open Internet Order, with the FCC essentially doing the bidding of the President, he suggested.

Thune said those heavier regs had decreased infrastructure investment.

But he also said Congress and the FCC need to put a regulatory framework in place that protects consumers but does not discourage that investment. Doomsday rhetoric and fear mongering will not change the fact that the 'net will continue to be an engine for economic growth," he said. But Congress needs to step in.

He praised FCC chairman Ajit Pai for the proposal, and the transparency of publishing the draft before the Dec. 14 vote. He called it the most well informed and exhaustive comment record ever assembled on an item, which runs counter to critics of the Pai proposal, who point to fake comments and an alleged DDoS attack to suggest that docket was a mess, and that the vote should be delayed while it is sorted out.

Thune said Americans care deeply about preserving a free and open internet, as does he. "I will say again today, congressional action is the only way to solve the endless back and forth on network neutrality rules over the past several years," he said.

Thune said that if the other side wants to enshrine new neutrality protections in law, he is ready to talk and compromise on such legislation. The holdup so far has been that Democrats argue Title II common carrier regs need to be the basis of that legislative solution, while that is a nonstarter for Republicans.

But Thune said it was past time for posturing. He said Republicans and Democrats have the public support to create a regulatory framework, adding: "It is time for Congress to settle this debate."

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John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.