This is a brilliantly stupid move, since so many independent voters support net neutrality. And once the rest of the voters understand that Republicans have guaranteed they will get crappier service for even more money, no one's going to be happy. But if there's one thing we know about Republicans, corporate interests always trump common sense:
For the White House, a major win on net neutrality might come at a cost — scuttling everything else on Washington’s tech and telecom agenda next year.
The Federal Communications Commission is racing to write rules that require Internet service providers to treat all Web traffic equally, and many expect the agency will follow President Barack Obama’s call to treat broadband service like a utility. Telecom giants and Republican lawmakers say that will create burdensome new regulation — and the issue has already incited a lobbying frenzy, raised the specter of lawsuits and ignited new partisan fires on Capitol Hill.
Some GOP members are planning to use their soon-to-be majority status to knock down the FCC’s net neutrality actions, perhaps even before any rules are announced in early 2015. And the growing tensions threaten to spill over into larger policy debates, as Congress takes on the complex process of updating the nation’s central communications laws.
“I don’t doubt there’s going to be a major confrontation if [the president] and the chairman of the FCC press ahead with rules as they have been described,” said Virginia GOP Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, in an interview.
The FCC finds itself back at the drawing board on net neutrality after its previous set of rules, issued under former Chairman Julius Genachowski, drew a lawsuit from Verizon and ultimately was tossed by a federal court.
It’s been left to current FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to craft a new net neutrality regime that can withstand another anticipated legal challenge from telecom companies while still satisfying Democrats and consumer groups, who pine for tough new protections. Wheeler stumbled with his early proposal — a draft that critics said would permit pay-for-play Internet ‘fast lanes’ — and he later seemed caught by surprise when Obama endorsed utility-style regulation of broadband, known as Title II.
Wheeler’s final offering, slated to arrive early next year, is expected to track closely with the president’s views on the matter — but a White House victory may prove short-lived.
Republicans, who oppose any net neutrality rules at all, have already telegraphed their game plan heading into 2015. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who’s set to take the helm of his chamber’s powerful Commerce Committee, has floated the idea of a bill that would pre-empt an FCC move to adopt Obama’s favored approach.