Franken blasts GOP's 'watered-down' Internet proposal

Sen. Al FrankenAl FrankenDem asks for 'highest level of scrutiny' on AT&T-Time Warner deal AT&T-Time Warner merger: Rigged by cozy regulatory relationships? Gretchen Carlson to testify before Congress MORE (D-Minn.) is lashing out against a "watered-down" Republican proposal to enforce rules governing the Internet. 

Franken on Thursday criticized the new Republican framework as the work of "big telecom companies and Internet service providers." 

"In a few weeks, the FCC is expected to vote on a set of rules that would enshrine net neutrality and protect consumers against monopolistic internet service providers. (That’s a good thing.)," he wrote in an email to supporters. 

He added: "But Congressional Republicans are expected to file a watered-down bill that’s exactly what the opposition and their lobbyists want. (That’s a bad thing.)."

He urged supporters to sign a petition in support of strong rules. Supporters are directed to a donation page after signing up. 

The Minnesota senator, President Obama and a host of other Democrats are pushing the Federal Communications Commission to reclassify broadband Internet as a utility in order to enforce strong rules requiring Internet providers to treat Internet traffic to different websites equally. 

The new Republican push for legislation is meant to give the FCC authority to enforce net neutrality rules, making reclassification unnecessary. But Franken wants to the FCC to follow through on its yearlong rewrite of new rules. 

The agency is slated to unveil a proposal in the next few weeks that is expected to track with Democrats’ recommendations. 

Republicans and service providers have fiercely opposed the move. GOP leaders in the House and Senate Commerce committees are working on legislation giving the FCC alternate authority to enforce net neutrality rules. 

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) and his House counterpart Fred Upton (R-Mich.) announced plans this week to begin drafting legislation and released a series of principles. Both committee's will hold hearings on the issue next week. 

Democrats have approached the new push with caution or opposition. 

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the ranking Democrat on the Commerce Committee, has been in discussions with Thune and others on a path forward. He said Wednesday "updated rules and regulations" are necessary.  

"I look forward to working with them to ensure any such changes keep the Internet free and open, and don't stifle innovation. Because I believe consumer protection should come first, the FCC must have flexible enforcement authority," he said. 

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) another advocate for strict rules said Wednesday he continues to maintain that the best path forward is reclassifying the Internet under Title II of the Communications Act.

— Updated 1:20 p.m.