Lawmakers Ask FCC To Reclassify Internet Access, Preserve Net Neutrality

Some Democratic lawmakers on Monday called on the Federal Communications Commission to reject neutrality principles put forward last week by Google and Verizon. Instead, the Congress members said, the FCC should reclassify Internet access as a telecommunications service subject to common carrier rules.

"Rather than expansion upon a proposal by two large communications companies with a vested financial interest in the outcome, formal FCC action is needed," wrote Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) and Jay Inslee (D-Wash.). "The public interest is served by a free and open Internet that continues to be an indispensable platform for innovation, investment, entrepreneurship, and free speech."

Google and Verizon last week suggested a controversial framework for potential neutrality legislation. The companies proposed that Internet service providers should generally refrain from degrading or prioritizing content, but also proposed an exception for specialized services like telemedicine, gaming or entertainment. For such specialized services, Google and Verizon would allow companies to forge agreements were they paid broadband providers more for special fast lane treatment. Google and Verizon also argue against applying neutrality restrictions to wireless networks.

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The lawmakers who wrote to the FCC on Monday said that a broad exception to non-discrimination principles for "managed services" would "swallow open Internet rules."

"Managed services might be rebranded or repackaged services and applications -- only with priority treatment not available to competitors," they wrote.

The letter additionally argues that the same general principles should apply to both wired and wireless broadband services. They argue that excluding wireless networks from neutrality rules "could widen the digital divide," on the theory that "traditionally underserved regions and demographic groups" might depend on wireless devices to access the Web.

Markey and the other lawmakers additionally argue that the FCC should adopt Chairman Julius Genachowski's "third way" approach to Internet regulation, which involves recategorizing Internet access as a telecommunications service and imposing some common carrier rules on providers.

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