Senate Democrats Urge Pai To Leave Net Neutrality Alone

Senate Democrats are urging Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai to back away from his plan to replace the net neutrality rules with a set of voluntary guidelines.

"Without the Open Internet Order, Internet Service Providers could discriminate against certain services, potentially distorting competition, stifling innovation, and hampering user choice and free expression," Sen. Ed Markey (Massachusetts) and 12 others write in a new letter to Pai.

The lawmakers criticize Pai's plan to reverse the agency's 2015 decision to classify broadband access as a utility service -- a move that enabled the agency to impose regulations prohibiting ISPs from blocking or degrading content and from charging companies higher fees for prioritized delivery.

"The issue is settled," the lawmakers say, adding that they want Pai to "maintain the successful current regime."

They also oppose Pai's plan to convince ISPs to voluntarily promise to follow neutrality principles. "Voluntary guidelines do not provide the certainty needed to entrepreneurs, innovators, and anyone else with an idea," the lawmakers say. 

Separately, 14 female Democratic senators also wrote to Pai to express opposition to his planned repeal of the net neutrality rules.

"Net neutrality is particularly important to women, as it affords women-owned businesses and startups an even playing field when competing with more established brands and content," Sens. Margarget Wood Hassan (New Hampshire), Maria Cantwell (Washington) and the others write.

The letter from the female lawmakers points to online sales platform Etsy as an example of a platform that has benefited from open Internet principles. "Under the current net neutrality regime, Etsy has empowered sellers in every state across the country, 87 percent of whom are women," the letter states.

They add that net neutrality has enabled women to organize politically.

"This is exemplified by the National Women's March, which took place in January of this year," they write. "Hundreds of thousands of people participated ... and the movement was largely generated through online activism."

The FCC is scheduled to vote at its May 18 meeting on whether to seek public comment on Pai's proposal for repealing the rules.

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