Franken to push bill that would make violations of net neutrality unlawful

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) plans to introduce a bill that would make net neutrality violations unlawful.

The Justice Department cannot take enforcement actions against cable and phone companies who block websites, according to experts and congressional Democrats.

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Franken said in a speech at the South by Southwest conference on Monday that he is planning legislation that would amend antitrust laws to "call violations of net neutrality out for what they are: anti-competitive actions by powerful media conglomerates that represent violations of our anti-trust laws."

Franken, one of the most vocal net neutrality supporters in the Congress, is taking an approach endorsed by some Republicans who say an antitrust approach to Internet openness might be appropriate.

House Judiciary intellectual property subcommittee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) has said he may also introduce a bill to amend antitrust laws to address net neutrality.

In his speech, Franken framed net neutrality as a fight against profit-driven corporations and encouraged the audience to speak up about the issue. 

"If we're going to win these legislative fights, we need to engage more voices in the debate: people who would be hurt if net neutrality became a thing of the past," he said.

He said the net neutrality has met a strong challenge in lies dispensed by telecom lobbyists. 

"They'll tell you that putting rules in place to preserve net neutrality as it exists today amounts to a 'government takeover' of the Internet, a talking point that deserves a place alongside 'death panels' and 'Obama's a Muslim' in the pantheon of lies that aren't just baldly false, but completely ridiculous," he said.

He noted that Tea Party members have come to oppose net neutrality in part because of such lies.

"The end of net neutrality would benefit no one but these corporate giants," he said. "Yet, true to form, telecom lobbyists and their conservative allies in Congress are taking up their cause, persuading your Tea Partier uncle and far too many other Americans by using a rhetorical technique I call 'making stuff up.'"