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Net neutrality a big step nearer as Congress Republicans concede fight

February 25, 2015, 10:45 AM UTC

Senior Republicans late Tuesday signaled they would give in to President Obama’s plans for ‘net neutrality,’ paving the way for the provision of Internet services to be regulated like a public utility for the first time.

The New York Times reported South Dakota Senator John Thune as admitting that there was little prospect of getting Congress to overturn a ruling by the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday that is likely to bar companies from offering faster Internet connections at premium rates.

“We’re not going to get a signed bill that doesn’t have Democrats’ support,” the NYT quoted Thune, who is also chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, as saying. “This is an issue that needs to have bipartisan support.”

The FCC’s five Commissioners are split on the issue, with three Democrats led by chairman Tom Wheeler all likely to vote in favor of enforcing ‘net neutrality’, while the two Republican commissioners oppose it.

However, the ruling is likely to be vigorously contested by a broad swathe of companies from Comcast Corp. (ETB) to IBM Corp. (IBM) and Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) that have lobbied heavily for freedom to price their services as they see fit and argued that tighter regulation will deter investment in building out broadband internet across the country.

Many have seen the initiative as a landmark expansion of central government’s regulatory agenda, which advocates have justified by stressing the need to prevent oligopolistic control of a service which has flourished over the last two decades, not least, because of its openness.