Franken: New FCC Rules Would ‘Destroy’ Open Internet

Senator blasts FCC chair for “fast lanes” in net-neutrality proposal.

Al Franken  at Senate Judiciary privacy subcommittee- top reps from Google and Apple as well as admin officials and industry leaders are set to testify on mobile-phone tracking on May 10, 2011.
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Laura Ryan
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Laura Ryan
April 29, 2014, 2:13 p.m.

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. 

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