Commentary

Dem. Senators Urge Wheeler To Abandon Broadband Proposal

A group of 11 senators today urged Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler to abandon a controversial plan to allow broadband providers to charge companies extra fees for faster delivery.

“The current Internet is a free market of products and ideas unparalleled in human history, and the FCC must preserve the type of Internet access that allows that marketplace to thrive,” the senators say in a letter to Wheeler. “Changing the rules -- to let broadband Internet Service Providers (ISPs) demand payment from websites and app developers -- would eradicate Net Neutrality, not preserve it. Any time one group of packets is favored on an IP network the rest of the traffic is, by definition, discriminated against.”

The lawmakers argue that sanctioning pay-for-play treatment would “irrevocably change the Internet as we know it.” The letter was signed by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) 

Like others who oppose Wheeler's proposal, the lawmakers say that endorsing paid fast lanes will harm startups, nonprofits and small companies that want to communicate online but aren't in a position to pay for prioritized delivery.

The lawmakers' letter comes the same week that tech companies and venture investors also criticized a plan to allow pay-for-play delivery. Ordinary consumers also haven't been shy about condemning the idea; the FCC apparently has received so many phone calls that it's now instructing callers that they should convey comments about net neutrality via email. (That development was first noted on Twitter by Columbia law professor Tim Wu, who coined the phrase Net neutrality.)

In one of the more unusual protests, Web hosting company NeoCities decided to throttle the FCC by deliberately slowing down traffic to its IP addresses. “Since the FCC seems to have no problem with this idea, I've (through correspondence) gotten access to the FCC's internal IP block, and throttled all connections from the FCC to 28.8kbps modem speeds on the Neocities.org front site,” NeoCities creator Kyle Drake says on his blog. “I'm not removing it until the FCC pays us for the bandwidth they've been wasting instead of doing their jobs protecting us from the 'keep America's internet slow and expensive forever' lobby.”

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