Senate Democrats are asking Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai to back away from his "radical and reckless" plan to repeal the net neutrality rules.
"Your plan gives a broadband provider the ability to significantly alter their subscribers' internet experience," states the letter, signed by 38 Democratic Senators, including Bill Nelson (Florida), Brian Schatz (Hawaii), and Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts), along with Independent Bernie Sanders (Vermont). "Once adopted, this proposal will permit that provider to freely block, slow down or manipulate a consumers' access to the internet as long as it discloses those practices -- no matter how anti-consumer -- somewhere within mounds of legalese."
The FCC is expected to vote Thursday on Pai's proposal to repeal net neutrality regulations that prohibit broadband providers from blocking or throttling traffic and from creating paid fast lanes. The agency is expected to vote 3-2 on party lines in favor of the repeal.
Some Republican lawmakers also are criticizing Pai's approach. On Tuesday, Rep. Mike Coffman (Utah) urged Pai to delay Thursday's planned vote until after Congress holds hearings. Coffman noted that the prior four chairmen of the FCC "all took steps to uphold the basic principles that guaranteed a free and open internet."
"Their combined efforts have given the nation a highly successful and popular space notable for free markets, free expression and for the tremendous growth in the internet economy," he wrote.
Rep. Jeff Fortenberrry (R-Nebraska) tweeted that he asked Pai to "preserve the framework of net neutrality," but also suggested, somewhat ambiguously, that net neutrality rules should apply to content creators. "The upcoming decision should not allow for corporate monopolistic domination, whether internet service provider delivery or content creators," he wrote.
The current net neutrality rules only apply to Internet access providers, and not to search engines, social networking services or other companies that offer content.
Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota) on Tuesday renewed his call for Congress to pass net neutrality legislation. Thune has said he supports net neutrality principles, but previously proposed legislation that imposed weaker requirements than the current rules.
His prior draft bill would have barred broadband providers from blocking or degrading content, and from charging companies higher fees for faster delivery. But it also would have allowed broadband providers to discriminate against competitors. For instance, the bill apparently would have allowed companies to exclude their own video streams -- but not those offered by Netflix or Amazon -- from consumers' monthly data caps.
Polls have shown broad consumer support for open Internet principles. In June, Mozilla reported that a survey it conducted with Ipsos found that 81% of Democrats and 73% of Republicans support net neutrality principles. A separate poll conducted this year found that 60% of registered voters (61% of Democrats and 59% of Republicans) support the rules.
Earlier this week, 20 internet gurus, including World Wide Web founder Tim Berners-Lee and "Father of the Internet" Vint Cerf warned lawmakers that the planned net neutrality repeal poses "an imminent threat to the Internet we worked so hard to create."