The two FCC commissioners who voted against the rules, Michael O'Rielly and Ajit Pai, joined Thune on Thursday's tour that first stopped at Blend Interactive in downtown Sioux Falls, a Web design and development company. Partner and creative director Karla Santi said the firm that has grown to 17 employees has clients around the U.S. and internationally, so an open Internet is vital.
"That's how we started and that's what we would like to fight for, as well," she said.
Leigh Freund, vice president and chief counsel in global public policy at AOL, said the company sees Thune as an ally because of his support for the technology industry and desire for minimal regulation.
"He gets that regulation can stand in the way," said Myriah Jordan, a public policy manager with Facebook.
Thune didn't respond in detail to the net neutrality issue but said he doesn't want companies to be subject to "Ma Bell regulations," referring to rules that once controlled the telephone industry.