Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune has a strategy for stopping federal regulators from seizing broad powers over the Internet: Give them what they want.
Thune is working on legislation that would direct the Federal Communications Commission to protect net neutrality—the principle that all Internet traffic should be treated equally.
But the proposal comes with strings attached—Thune and other Republicans want to use a net-neutrality bill to curb the FCC's overall power to regulate the Internet.
"Congress "¦ is the only entity that can settle this issue with true certainty," Thune said in a speech this month at Reboot Congress, a libertarian technology conference. "And we can do so in a way that will empower the FCC with the strong tools many believe are needed to protect the Internet while simultaneously ensuring the agency is appropriately limited in its reach and authority."
Republicans have long been fiercely opposed to net-neutrality regulations. Sen. Ted Cruz memorably referred to it as "Obamacare for the Internet." But Thune and other GOP members are ready to give in on net neutrality if they can avert what they see as more-onerous regulations.
Their gambit comes as the FCC is on the verge of redefining how it regulates the Internet. On Thursday, the FCC is scheduled to vote on net-neutrality rules that would declare the Internet a "telecommunications service" under Title II of the Communications Act.