(Reuters/Chris Keane)

In a broadside against federal regulators, GOP presidential hopeful Jeb Bush says he'd overturn the government's sweeping net neutrality rules that currently prohibit Internet providers from favoring some Web sites over others.

Arguing that Washington is in the midst of a "regulatory crisis" spurred by President Obama and the Federal Communications Commission, Bush said Tuesday that, if elected to the White House, he'd "repeal or reform" a number of regulations, beginning with net neutrality.

The FCC approved strict net neutrality rules earlier this year in an effort to ensure that Internet providers don't slow down some Web sites or speed up others, particularly in exchange for money. Consumer advocates and some Web-based businesses said such a policy was necessary to ensure a level playing field. But Internet providers objected to the FCC's decision to regulate them using some of the same rules the agency uses to police legacy telephone service. They've sued the FCC in hopes of overturning the regulations.

[Internet providers have opened a new front in the net neutrality fight]

Now Bush is signaling that no matter what happens with the court battle, he'd make it a priority to roll back the rules. Here's how it could happen: Under a Republican administration, the political balance at the FCC would tip from a 3-2 majority in favor of liberals to a 3-2 majority in favor of conservatives. That would allow Republicans to undo the actions of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, an Obama appointee.

Post tech reporter Hayley Tsukayama explains the idea of net neutrality and why its future could affect every Internet user. (Davin Coburn/The Washington Post)

Bush could also put pressure on Congress to expedite legislation on net neutrality that would water down or eliminate the FCC's rules. With the GOP in control of both chambers and the White House, crafting a new net neutrality policy would be a lot easier than it is now. Republicans could propose a net neutrality bill that contains basic protections for consumers on the one hand but stops short of using what Bush called "antiquated 'common carrier' regulation" on the other.

Telecom policy analysts have long anticipated that a Republican president might try to take this step. But now one candidate has made it clear: The FCC's net neutrality policy would not survive a Bush administration.


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