Elizabeth Warren: Internet ‘Fast Lanes’ Will Help ‘Rich and Powerful’

The liberal senator bashes the FCC’s net-neutrality proposal.

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 11: U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) questions witnesses during a Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on 'Mitigating Systemic Risk Through Wall Street Reforms,' on Capitol Hill, July 11, 2013 in Washington, DC. The committee heard from the panel about the progress being made on reform provisions that improve financial stability. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
National Journal
Brendan Sasso
April 30, 2014, 10:10 a.m.

Sen. Eliza­beth War­ren urged the Fed­er­al Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sion on Wed­nes­day to en­act strong net-neut­ral­ity rules to en­sure that all web­sites re­ceive equal ser­vice.

“Re­ports that the FCC may gut net neut­ral­ity are dis­turb­ing, and would be just one more way the play­ing field is tilted for the rich and power­ful who have already made it,” the Mas­sachu­setts Demo­crat wrote in a Face­book post.

“Our reg­u­lat­ors already have all the tools they need to pro­tect a free and open In­ter­net — where a hand­ful of com­pan­ies can­not block or fil­ter or charge ac­cess fees for what we do on­line. They should stand up and use them.”

FCC Chair­man Tom Wheel­er plans to ad­vance net-neut­ral­ity reg­u­la­tions that would al­low In­ter­net ser­vice pro­viders to charge web­sites for faster ser­vice as long as the ar­range­ments are “com­mer­cially reas­on­able.” The rules would bar ISPs from block­ing any web­sites or de­grad­ing ser­vice.

Wheel­er de­fen­ded his pro­pos­al in a speech Wed­nes­day be­fore a con­fer­ence of the Na­tion­al Cable & Tele­com­mu­nic­a­tions As­so­ci­ation, a lob­by­ing group that in­cludes Com­cast, Charter, and oth­er broad­band pro­viders.

“Re­ports that we are gut­ting the Open In­ter­net rules are in­cor­rect,” Wheel­er said to the audi­ence of cable and broad­band ex­ec­ut­ives. “I am here to say, ‘Wait a minute. Put away the party hats. The Open In­ter­net rules will be tough, en­force­able, and, with the con­cur­rence of my col­leagues, in place with dis­patch.’ “

The FCC chair­man is try­ing to re­work the rules in a way that will sur­vive leg­al chal­lenges after a fed­er­al Ap­peals Court struck down the old, stronger rules in Janu­ary.

In his speech, Wheel­er said his goal is to “en­cour­age broad­band pro­viders to con­tinu­ally up­grade ser­vice to all.”

“We will not al­low some com­pan­ies to force In­ter­net users in­to a slow lane so that oth­ers with spe­cial priv­ileges can have su­per­i­or ser­vice,” Wheel­er said.

He also warned that he will “not hes­it­ate” to re­clas­si­fy broad­band In­ter­net as a Title II “tele­com­mu­nic­a­tions ser­vice,” which would dra­mat­ic­ally ex­pand his agency’s power to reg­u­late it. Lib­er­al ad­vocacy groups have been ur­ging Wheel­er to re­clas­si­fy broad­band and re­in­state strong net-neut­ral­ity rules that ban In­ter­net “fast lanes.”

“If someone acts to di­vide the In­ter­net between ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots,’ we will use every power at our dis­pos­al to stop it,” Wheel­er said.

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