The U.S. government's plan to enact strong net neutrality regulations could embolden authoritarian regimes like China and Russia to seize more power over the Internet through the United Nations, a key Senate Republican warned Wednesday.
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune of South Dakota argued that by claiming more authority over Internet access for net neutrality, the Federal Communications Commission will undermine the ability of the U.S. to push back against international plots to control the Internet and censor content.
Countries like Russia already have made it clear that they want the International Telecommunications Union or another United Nations body to have more power over the Internet, Thune said.
"It seems like reclassifying broadband, as the administration is doing, is losing a valuable argument," Thune said at his panel's hearing on Internet governance. "How do you prevent ITU involvement when you're pushing to reclassify the Internet under Title II of the Communications Act, and is everyone aware of that inherent contradiction?"
On Thursday, the FCC is set to vote on net neutrality regulations that would declare Internet access a "telecommunications service" under Title II. Advocates, including President Obama, argue that the move is the only way the FCC can enact rules that will hold up to legal challenges in court. The rules aim to prevent Internet providers from acting as "gatekeepers" and controlling what content users can access online.