U.S. Senator Rand Paul, a Republican presidential hopeful, on Wednesday introduced a resolution to block new regulations on Internet service providers, saying they would "wrap the Internet in red tape."
The "net neutrality" rules, which are slated to take effect in June, are backed by the Obama administration and were passed by the Democratic majority of the Federal Communications Commission in February. AT&T Inc and wireless and cable trade associations are challenging them in court.
Paul's resolution, if adopted, would allow the Senate to fast-track a vote to establish that Congress disapproves of the FCC's new rules and moves to nullify them.
The move marks the most proactive position yet by Paul, a libertarian from Kentucky, on net neutrality, the principle that Internet providers should treat all Web traffic equally. The issue has grabbed national attention and prompted a record 4 million comments to the FCC, many of them from regular Americans calling to restrict Internet providers.
Paul's position, shared by anti-regulation conservatives, pits him against net neutrality advocates in the technology and startup communities.
"The Internet has successfully flourished without the heavy hand of government interference," Paul said in a statement. "Stated simply, I do not want to see the government regulating the Internet."
The rules ban Internet providers from blocking or slowing down any websites and from striking deals with content companies for smoother downloads. Internet providers say they oppose not those principles themselves but the FCC's decision to set those rules by dramatically changing the regulatory regime, which gives the agency much wider authority over the Internet.
The rules have also faced opposition from Paul's rival Republican presidential candidates, including Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who has called them "Obamacare for the Internet," and Florida Senator Marco Rubio.
Paul's resolution is almost certain to face a veto from President Barack Obama. Republican leaders of key technology committees have been trying to negotiate with Democrats to write a new law to counter the FCC's rules.
(Reporting by Alina Selyukh; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)