Pelosi urges FCC to ban Internet ‘fast lanes’

The Federal Communications Commission should ban “fast lanes” on the Internet by regulating broadband companies like traditional phone companies, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on Monday.

In addition to banning deals between Internet service companies like Comcast or Cox and websites like Netflix — which critics of the FCC’s proposed rules say would lead to faster service for deep-pocketed companies — Pelosi said reclassifying broadband internet service would let the FCC better prevent fraud on people's bills.

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“Innovators prefer bright-line rules and worry the proposed rules would force them into commercial arrangements that require payment of tolls in cash or equity to get their ideas on the Internet,” she wrote in a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

“I oppose special Internet fast lanes, only open to those firms large enough to pay big money or fraught enough to give up big stakes in their company.”

Reclassifying broadband Internet so that it is regulated like traditional phone service would be a controversial step sure to draw ire from congressional Republicans and companies, who have already warned the commission against the move. Critics of reclassification have said that it would apply outdated 20th century regulations to the Internet, which could undermine the open nature of the Net.

The FCC is currently weighing comments on its proposal for new rules on net neutrality — the notion that Internet service providers should be prohibited from blocking or slowing anyone’s access to any website.

Wheeler’s initial plan would not reclassify broadband Internet service to treat it like traditional phone service, but would instead rely on a legal provision that allows the FCC to encourage the rollout of broadband Internet services. The proposal seemed to open the door for companies to cut “commercially reasonable” deals, which led to fears about online “fast lanes.”

The once-unpopular chorus for reclassifying the Net has steadily gotten louder, as voices from Netflix to The New York Timess editorial board have urged the FCC to take the bold step in recent weeks.

In her letter on Monday, Pelosi said that the public response to the FCC’s proposal — which has inspired the largest number of comments ever for an agency rule-making — “proves how important it is for the FCC to ensure all Americans are able to enjoy the same robust net neutrality protections on wireless that they should enjoy on a wired connection."