A group of 36 Democrats are increasing their calls for the Federal Communications Commission to reclassify broadband Internet as a public utility.
The lawmakers, including 12 senators and 24 House members, sent a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler urging the commission to adopt rules recently endorsed by President Obama to enforce net neutrality, the view that all Internet traffic should be treated equally.
They called for broadband Internet to be reclassified as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. The rules are stricter than the Internet's current classification as an information service. But the lawmakers asked the commission to use "forbearance" to prevent some of the regulations from applying.
Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyBuying that new-used car: Congress must put safety first Overnight Finance: Scoop – Trump team eyes dramatic spending cuts | Treasury pick survives stormy hearing Senate Dems want Trump to withdraw from Pacific trade deal MORE (D-Mass.) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) spearheaded the letter. Both Democrats and a number of others who signed on have previously written the commission, detailing more nuanced positions on the process.
Many Democrats and advocates for stricter rules governing the Internet believe reclassification is necessary to prevent Internet service providers from blocking or slowing traffic to some websites, while also banning deals to increase speeds to others.
"As you know, President Obama recently joined us in urging this action,” they wrote in the letter.
Republicans and Internet service providers have come out strongly against reclassification.
Wheeler is expected to unveil finalized rules in the next few months. He has stressed the commission is independent, and it is looking at a number of proposals, including an option that would only partially rely on the authority the lawmakers outlined.
The commission is drafting new rules after an appeals court invalidated the FCC’s previous open Internet rules. Internet service providers have warned that reclassification would almost certainly lead to further litigation.
Other senators who signed the letter are Sens. Al Franken (Minn.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Corey Booker (N.J.), Carl Levin (Mich.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Jeff Merkley (Ore.).
On the House side, Reps. Henry Waxman (Calif.), Zoe Lofgren (Calif.), Mike Doyle (Pa.), Barbara Lee (Calif.), John Lewis (Ga.), Michael Capuano (Mass.), Chellie Pingree (Maine), Betty McCollum (Minn.), Suzanne Bonamici (Ore.), Tim Ryan (Ohio), Mark Takano (Calif.), Mike Honda (Calif.), Earl Blumenauer (Ore.), Jared Polis (Colo.), Jared Huffman (Calif.), James McGovern (Mass.), Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), Louise Slaughter (N.Y.), Niki Tsongas (Mass.), Sam Farr (Calif.), Keith Ellison (Minn.), Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.) and John Conyers Jr. (Mich.) all signed the letter.