Senate Dems protest FCC plan for Internet ‘fast lanes’

A group of 11 senators are asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to abandon a proposal that would allow Internet providers to create online “fast lanes.”

The proposal from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler would “irrevocably change the Internet as we know it,” the senators wrote in a letter to Wheeler on Friday.

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“Small businesses, content creators and Internet users must not be held hostage by an increasingly consolidated broadband industry.”

The letter comes days before the FCC’s scheduled May 15 vote on Wheeler’s attempts to rewrite his agency’s net neutrality rules.

Before they were struck down by a federal court earlier this year, the FCC’s net neutrality rules kept Internet providers from slowing or blocking access to certain websites.

Based on the court ruling, Wheeler’s new plan would allow Internet providers to charge websites for better access to users through “commercially reasonable” agreements.

Despite reassurances that the FCC will ensure these agreements don’t harm consumers or competition, net neutrality advocates have slammed Wheeler for his “fast lanes” proposal, arguing that it would create a tiered Internet where only deep-pocketed companies can afford to reach consumers.

In their letter, the senators said Wheeler’s proposal “would eradicate net neutrality, not preserve it.”

They told Wheeler that his plan goes against the agency’s commitment to an open Internet.

“The genius of the Internet is that it allows innovation without permission, not innovation only after cutting a deal with the [Internet provider] and receiving the FCC’s blessing for it,” the letter said.

Instead of Wheeler’s current plans, the agency should consider reclassifying Internet providers to make them more like traditional phone companies, over which the agency has clear authority to regulate more broadly.

The proposal being voted on next week “should facilitate discussion of the best option for protecting the Open Internet — not merely accept that the Commission has no choice but to permit toll lanes and other kinds of unreasonable discrimination.”

The letter is signed by Sens. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Overnight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Finance to hold hearing on ObamaCare repeal bill MORE (D-Ore.), Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill This week: Senate wrapping up defense bill after amendment fight Cuomo warns Dems against cutting DACA deal with Trump MORE (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Trump bets base will stick with him on immigration Dems call for action against Cassidy-Graham ObamaCare repeal MORE (D-Mass.), Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersOvernight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Senate passes 0B defense bill Dems fear lasting damage from Clinton-Sanders fight MORE (I-Vt.), Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenGOP eying 'blue slip' break to help Trump fill the courts Overnight Regulation: FTC launches probe into Equifax | Dems propose tougher data security rules | NYC aims to slash greenhouse gas emissions | EPA to reconsider Obama coal ash rule Overnight Cybersecurity: Kaspersky to testify before House | US sanctions Iranians over cyberattacks | Equifax reveals flaw that led to hack MORE (D-Minn.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandOvernight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax hit by earlier hack | What to know about Kaspersky controversy | Officials review EU-US privacy pact Senate passes 0B defense bill MORE (D-N.Y.), Edward MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyOvernight Regulation: FTC launches probe into Equifax | Dems propose tougher data security rules | NYC aims to slash greenhouse gas emissions | EPA to reconsider Obama coal ash rule Overnight Cybersecurity: Kaspersky to testify before House | US sanctions Iranians over cyberattacks | Equifax reveals flaw that led to hack Dems propose data security bill after Equifax hack MORE (D-Mass.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleySenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Overnight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Senate passes 0B defense bill MORE (D-Ore.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerTrump riles Dems with pick for powerful EPA job Pelosi's chief of staff stepping down Time is now to address infrastructure needs MORE (D-Calif.).

-- This post was updated at 7:37 p.m.