The Federal Communications Commission's recent proposal to allow Internet service providers to charge websites for faster service is an "affront" to the open Internet, Sen. Al Franken said Tuesday.
The Minnesota Democrat sent FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler a letter blasting the net-neutrality regulations he introduced last week, saying the "fast lanes" undermine the core principles of net neutrality: openness and competition.
"Sanctioning pay-to-play arrangements would not preserve the Open Internet — it would destroy it," wrote Franken, who is an outspoken supporter of net neutrality.
Such an arrangement would give "deep-pocketed" companies, such as Netflix or Facebook, an unfair advantage over small companies that would not be able to pay for faster service, he wrote.
"This proposal would create an online 'fast lane' for the highest bidder — shutting out small businesses and increasing costs for consumers," Franken wrote.
Franken's words echo the sentiments of many consumer-advocacy groups and liberal lawmakers, who have slammed the proposed regulations since they were introduced last week.
But Wheeler denies that his proposed rules would "gut" net neutrality, and he has promised to pursue stronger rules if these ones fall short.
"I believe this process will put us on track to have tough, enforceable Open Internet rules on the books in an expeditious manner, ending a decade of uncertainty and litigation," Wheeler wrote in a blog post Tuesday.
The FCC first adopted net-neutrality rules in 2010, but a federal court struck them down in January. The original rules forbade Internet providers from blocking websites or discriminating against Internet traffic. Wheeler's new proposal would still ban blocking, but would permit Internet providers to charge for faster speeds, as long as the arrangements are "commercially reasonable."
The FCC's five commissioners will vote to advance the proposal at the next open commission meeting on May 15. The commission will accept public comments on the new proposal before it is finalized.