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Preach it Al:

Sen. Al Franken criticized as "misguided" a plan being considered by the FCC's head to let companies pay for preferential access to ISPs, warning that it would "destroy" the concept of an open Internet.

In a letter sent to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler on Tuesday, Franken said that the idea would constitute "an affront to Net neutrality and have no place in an online marketplace that values competition and openness."

A federal appeals court decision in January essentially assigned the Federal Communications Commission to write new Open Internet rules. Wheeler has since drafted rules that would let Internet service providers charge companies varying rates for faster connection speeds.

Franken blasted that idea, predicting that it would create a "fast lane" that would shut out small businesses and jack up consumer costs.

"Your proposal would grant Verizon, Comcast, and other ISPs the power to pick winners and losers on the Internet, which violates core Net neutrality principles that you have publicly supported in the past. Although you claim that this proposal is not a "turnaround," it is difficult to understand how it does not flatly contradict your own Commission's Open Internet Order." - CNET, 4/29/14

Here's a little more info:

Addressing the “commercially reasonable” standard that Wheeler proposes for assessing whether or not a pay-for-play deal violates open internet rules, Franken says this “misses the point: Pay-to-play arrangements are inherently discriminatory and anticompetitive, and therefore should be prohibited as a matter of public policy.”

Franken joins fellow Senators Bernie Sanders, Ed Markey, Kristen Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Ron Wyden, Richard Blumenthal and Jeff Merkley who have all publicly criticized Wheeler’s Open Internet proposal,and the internet “fast lane” it would create.

For his part Wheeler published his second blog post on the subject, also on Tuesday. He argues that for a decade there have been “no lasting results” on net neutrality, resulting in the situation where, “Today Internet Openness is being decided on an ad hoc basis by big companies.”

He insists that “something that harms consumers,” “something that harms competition,” or “providing exclusive, prioritized service to an affiliate” are all things that would not be “commercially reasonable.”

For the first time Wheeler puts the use of “Title II” on the table, “If we get to the situation where arrival of the ‘next Google’ or the ‘next Amazon’ is being delayed or deterred[.]” Title II would mean reclassifying internet service back to being common carrier, like telephone, strengthening the FCC’s ability to protect against discrimination. However, such reclassification is not part of the current Open Internet proposal. - Radio Survivor, 4/30/14

Of course Wheeler is defending his stance but Franken's not having it:

Wheeler’s office has defended his plans to rewrite the rules and allow “fast lanes,” saying the commission would ensure that any arrangements between content companies and Internet providers for boosted traffic would have to be “commercially reasonable.”

Officials have also said the new plan is not a deviation from previous policies, which would have had to allow for some traffic discrimination.

The plan would also establish a baseline for the level of access to subscribers that Internet providers have to give content companies.

In his Tuesday letter, Franken criticized Wheeler’s defense, saying the new plan “violates core net neutrality principles that you have publicly supported in the past.”

“Although you claim this proposal is not a ‘turnaround,’ it is difficult to understand how it does not flatly contradict your own Commission’s” net neutrality rules, Franken wrote.

He pointed to the FCC’s 2010 rules that said allowing “fast lanes” would encourage Internet providers to degrade the rest of their traffic in the hopes of getting content companies to pay more for better access.

“The Commission widely recognized the fundamental problems with pay-to-play arrangements three years ago,” Franken wrote, adding that Wheeler should be “working to sustain competition and consumer benefits, not creating unnecessary tolls for consumers and businesses.”

“The Internet was developed at taxpayers’ expense to benefit the public interest,” he wrote. “It belongs to all of us.” - The Hill, 4/29/14

Here's something else to keep in mind:

One of the things the FCC needs to define is what constitutes a "commercially reasonable" deal. Wheeler today outlined several examples of behavior or business deals that the FCC would not accept.

Degrading service in order to create a new "fast lane" would be shut down.
Degrading overall service so as to force consumers and content companies to a higher priced tier would be shut down.
Providing exclusive, prioritized service to an affiliate is not commercially reasonable. For instance, a broadband provider that also owns a sports network should not be able to give a commercial advantage to that network over another competitive sports network wishing to reach viewers over the Internet.
Something that curbs the free exercise of speech and civic engagement is not commercially reasonable. For instance, if the creators of new Internet content or services had to seek permission from ISPs or pay special fees to be seen online such action should be shut down.

When asked recently for an example of what a commercially reasonable deal might be, an FCC official pointed to a prioritized connection to someone with an at-home heart-rate monitor that didn't significantly impact Internet traffic to anyone else. Further examples will likely come up during the rulemaking process, that official said.

"In other words, the Internet will remain an open pathway. If broadband providers would seek to use the commercially reasonable test as justification of activities in which users can't effectively use that pathway, or the capabilities of it are degraded, I suggest they save their breath since such conduct would be a violation of the Open Internet rules we propose," Wheeler wrote. "If anyone acts to degrade the service for all for the benefit of a few, I intend to use every available power to stop it."

But why even test the waters with the commercially reasonable standard? Shouldn't the FCC just ban prioritized content outright? According to the agency, it did that with its original net neutrality rules. But the court has struck them down twice now, so the FCC needs to come up with a solution that will withstand legal scrutiny. - PC Mag, 4/30/14

If you would like to thank Senator Franken for continuing to fight for net neutrality, you can click here to donate and get involved with his re-election bid:

Originally posted to pdc on Wed Apr 30, 2014 at 01:04 PM PDT.

Also republished by The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.

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