Franken: FCC chief's plan for ‘fast lanes’ will ‘destroy’ Internet

 

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) called a proposal at the Federal Communications Commission to allow Internet “fast lanes” an “affront to net neutrality" that would "destroy" the open Internet.

In a letter sent on Tuesday, Franken asked FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to reconsider his current plans to rewrite the agency’s net neutrality rules in a way that allows some content companies to pay for better access to Internet providers’ subscribers.

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“This proposal would create an online ‘fast lane’ for the highest bidder — shutting out small business and increasing costs for consumers,” Franken wrote.

“I strongly urge you to reconsider this misguided approach and recommit to protecting the Open Internet for all Americans.”

Wheeler’s attempts to rewrite the agency’s net neutrality rules come after a federal court overturned them earlier this year.

Before they were overturned, the FCC’s net neutrality rules kept Internet providers like Comcast and Verizon from blocking or slowing access to certain websites.

Wheeler’s office has defended his plans to rewrite the rules and allow “fast lanes,” saying the commission would ensure that any arrangements between content companies and Internet providers for boosted traffic would have to be “commercially reasonable.”

Officials have also said the new plan is not a deviation from previous policies, which would have had to allow for some traffic discrimination.

The plan would also establish a baseline for the level of access to subscribers that Internet providers have to give content companies.

In his Tuesday letter, Franken criticized Wheeler’s defense, saying the new plan “violates core net neutrality principles that you have publicly supported in the past.”

“Although you claim this proposal is not a ‘turnaround,’ it is difficult to understand how it does not flatly contradict your own Commission’s” net neutrality rules, Franken wrote.

He pointed to the FCC’s 2010 rules that said allowing “fast lanes” would encourage Internet providers to degrade the rest of their traffic in the hopes of getting content companies to pay more for better access.

“The Commission widely recognized the fundamental problems with pay-to-play arrangements three years ago,” Franken wrote, adding that Wheeler should be “working to sustain competition and consumer benefits, not creating unnecessary tolls for consumers and businesses.”

“The Internet was developed at taxpayers’ expense to benefit the public interest,” he wrote. “It belongs to all of us.” 

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