Thune: Congress Needs to Settle Net-Neutrality Debate

Republican senator praises Pai, but says Hill needs to weigh in to provide certainty

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

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

Related: Sen. Thune Says It's Time for Net-Neutrality Legislation (May 18, 2017)

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 internet will continue to be an engine for economic growth," Thune said, adding that Congress needs to step in.

He praised FCC chair Ajit Pai for the proposal, and the transparency of publishing the draft before the Dec. 14 vote. He called the docket 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 the docket was a mess, and that the vote should be delayed while it is sorted out.

Related: Pai Circulates Order Unwinding Title II Classification of ISPs

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 regulations 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."