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The Federal Communications Commission is expected to vote later this morning to put more stringent regulation on Internet providers. Backers, including tech firms and the Obama administration, say the net neutrality rules will ensure equal access to the Internet for content providers. Meanwhile, some Republicans in Congress say new regulations will stifle innovation and investment. But their hopes to limit or overturn the rules face an uphill battle. NPR's Brian Naylor reports.
BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Congressional Republicans have made no secret of their distaste for FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler's plan for new rules for Internet providers. GOP Senator Ted Cruz tweeted a link to a YouTube video spoofing President Obama.
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UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As Barack Obama) This is the same government that brought you the online success of healthcare.gov, and we know that we can continue to do great things for you online.
NAYLOR: And their efforts are not limited to bad imitations of the president. Yesterday, Republicans held a hearing they titled "The Uncertain Future Of The Internet." Oregon Republican Greg Walden called the Internet a catalyst for the modern information economy and culture. The FCC's vote, he said...
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REPRESENTATIVE GREG WALDEN: Threatens to throw all of this out the window and to generate significant uncertainty that will impact the industry, its investors and ultimately its consumers.
NAYLOR: Tennessee Republican Marsha Blackburn claimed regulating Internet providers will lead to new taxes.
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REPRESENTATIVE MARSHA BLACKBURN: I'm one of those that believes the Internet is a bright spot in today's economy. It is not broken, and it does not need the FCC's help in order to be effective.
NAYLOR: Over in the Senate, Republicans have similar concerns. John Thune of South Dakota, chairman of the committee with oversight of the FCC, says the agency will be subjecting the Internet to the heavy hand of regulation.
SENATOR JOHN THUNE: And I hope that February 26 doesn't go down in history as a time when the Internet moved from a - something that was driven by free-market innovation to something that's driven by bureaucratic decision-making.
NAYLOR: Thune had sponsored a bill that he says would do much of what the FCC plans to do in terms of guaranteeing equal access to the Internet, but without giving the FCC so much power over Internet providers. FCC Chairman Wheeler wants to regulate them like the agency used to treat telephone companies under an 80-year-old law. Thune says that's a bad idea.
THUNE: The FCC trying to use a 1934 - peg their authority to a 1934 law is going to be very, very hard to sustain in court. And even if they do, like I said, in a new administration it'll be completely overturned.
NAYLOR: Thune said some Democrats in Congress are interested in his legislation, but they are less likely to back it against the Democratic majority on the FCC and the Obama administration. He and other Republicans are predicting a future of court challenges against the FCC rules and say today's action by the agency is just the beginning of the debate. Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington.
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