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 WydenTensions flare as GOP's Biden probe ramps up  Frustration builds as negotiators struggle to reach COVID-19 deal On The Money: Unemployment benefits to expire as coronavirus talks deadlock | Meadows, Pelosi trade criticism on stalled stimulus talks | Coronavirus recession hits Social Security, Medicare, highway funding MORE (D-Ore.), Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSchiff, Khanna call for free masks for all Americans in coronavirus aid package Meadows: 'I'm not optimistic there will be a solution in the very near term' on coronavirus package Biden calls on Trump, Congress to enact an emergency housing program MORE (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenTrump says government to review 5M Kodak loan deal Michelle Obama supporters urge Biden to pick former first lady as running mate On The Money: Unemployment debate sparks GOP divisions | Pandemic reveals flaws of unemployment insurance programs | Survey finds nearly one-third of rehired workers laid off again MORE (D-Mass.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersLongtime Rep. Lacy Clay defeated in Missouri Democratic primary Hillicon Valley: NSA warns of new security threats | Teen accused of Twitter hack pleads not guilty | Experts warn of mail-in voting misinformation Schiff, Khanna call for free masks for all Americans in coronavirus aid package MORE (I-Vt.), Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenCNN publishes first Al Franken op-ed since resignation Political world mourns loss of comedian Jerry Stiller Maher to Tara Reade on timing of sexual assault allegation: 'Why wait until Biden is our only hope?' MORE (D-Minn.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandBiden should pick the best person for the job — not the best woman Overnight Defense: Guardsman to testify Lafayette Square clearing was 'unprovoked escalation' | Dems push for controversial Pentagon nominee to withdraw | Watchdog says Pentagon not considering climate change risks to contractors Democrats urge controversial Pentagon policy nominee to withdraw MORE (D-N.Y.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyThe Hill's Campaign Report: Even the Post Office is political now | Primary action tonight | Super PACS at war Markey offers apology to family of unarmed Black teen amid criticism The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden's latest plan on racial inequality MORE (D-Mass.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyHillicon Valley: NSA warns of new security threats | Teen accused of Twitter hack pleads not guilty | Experts warn of mail-in voting misinformation Merkley, Sanders introduce bill limiting corporate facial recognition Portland protesters clash with law enforcement for first time since federal presence diminished MORE (D-Ore.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerBottom line Polls show big bounce to Biden ahead of Super Tuesday Sanders poised for big Super Tuesday MORE (D-Calif.).

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