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Senate Dems to Pai: Abandon Reckless 'Net Dereg Plan

The majority of Democratic Senators have joined Senate Commerce Committee ranking member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) on a letter to the FCC joining the chorus of opponents of the Dec. 14 vote to roll back net regs and calling on FCC chairman Ajit Pai to "abandon" his "reckless" plan.

That comes on what activists have billed Break the Internet day, a protest of the reg rollback by activists and web sites including Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.

In the letter, whose signatories include Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and the outgoing Al Franken (D-Minn.), three of the most ardent supporters of Title II-based net regs, the senators call on chairman Ajit Pai to "abandon" his "reckless plan to radically alter the free and open internet as we know it."

Related: Cerf, Berners-Lee, Woz Seek Hill Help Blocking FCC Vote

Pai argues he is returning the 'net to the previous light-touch approach that helped it grow into a communications powerhouse and spurred hundreds of billions of dollars of network investment. The senators say that is a "false notion" and ignores the changing nature and centrality of the 'net.

The Democratic senators say the rollback is "throwing overboard" the responsibility, delegated from Congress, to protect consumers and the public interest.

The Pai-backed rule rollback order would also preempt state or local attempts to install their own net neutrality regs, which also does not sit will with the senators. They said it was not enough for the FCC to "turn its back" on consumers. "You willfully plan to tie the states' hands to prevent them from protecting their own residents," they said, calling it a "stunning regulatory overreach."

But preemption is a double-edged sword. Democrats were generally supportive of efforts by former Democratic FCC chairman Tom Wheeler to preempt state and local prohibitions on municipal broadband network buildouts.