Rep. Henry Waxman is about to retire, but before he does, he'd like to save the future of the Internet.
Waxman, the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, outlined a legal strategy Friday that he thinks will allow the Federal Communications Commission to enact strong net-neutrality regulations while mostly avoiding a political backlash.
Waxman's proposal partially relies on a controversial move to give the FCC sweeping new powers over Internet access. But unlike other liberals on Capitol Hill, including Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Waxman would use a "hybrid" approach aimed at easing the fears of business groups.
In a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, Waxman said the FCC should reclassify broadband Internet as a "telecommunications service" under Title II of the Communications Act. The move is necessary, the California Democrat said, to put the new regulations on firm legal ground. A federal court already threw out the FCC's first attempt at net-neutrality regulations earlier this year.
Republicans and Internet providers are fiercely opposed to Title II, warning that it would essentially turn the Internet into a public utility and would strangle economic growth.
To address their concerns, Waxman's proposal would primarily use a separate legal provision to enact the new regulations.