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 WydenInterior gains new watchdog On The Money: NY prosecutors subpoena eight years of Trump tax returns | Senators struggle to get spending bills off ground as shutdown looms | Progressive tax-the-rich push gains momentum | Trump faces dwindling leverage with China Progressive tax-the-rich push gains momentum MORE (D-Ore.), Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer, Pelosi push Trump to back universal background check bill Sinema says she would back Kennedy in race against Markey Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall MORE (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSanders supporters cry foul over Working Families endorsement of Warren California poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth Kamala Harris calls for new investigation into Kavanaugh allegations MORE (D-Mass.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders supporters cry foul over Working Families endorsement of Warren California poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth Kamala Harris calls for new investigation into Kavanaugh allegations MORE (I-Vt.), Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenThe Hill's Morning Report - What is Trump's next move on Iran? The Memo: Times correction gives GOP lifeline in latest Kavanaugh controversy Politicon announces lineup including Comey, Hannity, Priebus MORE (D-Minn.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandAt debate, Warren and Buttigieg tap idealism of Obama, FDR Trump court pick sparks frustration for refusing to answer questions Klobuchar, Buttigieg find themselves accidentally flying to debate together MORE (D-N.Y.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyYoung insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight Ocasio-Cortez endorses Markey in Senate race amid speculation over Kennedy candidacy House votes to block drilling in Arctic refuge MORE (D-Mass.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOvernight Health Care: Juul's lobbying efforts fall short as Trump moves to ban flavored e-cigarettes | Facebook removes fact check from anti-abortion video after criticism | Poll: Most Democrats want presidential candidate who would build on ObamaCare Overnight Energy: Democrats call for Ross to resign over report he threatened NOAA officials | Commerce denies report | Documents detail plan to decentralize BLM | Lawmakers demand answers on bee-killing pesticide Oregon Democrats push EPA to justify use of pesticide 'highly toxic' to bees MORE (D-Ore.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerHillicon Valley: Ocasio-Cortez clashes with former Dem senator over gig worker bill | Software engineer indicted over Capital One breach | Lawmakers push Amazon to remove unsafe products Ocasio-Cortez blasts former Dem senator for helping Lyft fight gig worker bill Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates MORE (D-Calif.).

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