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Senators Make Title II Pitch

Veteran net neutrality advocate Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), joined by 11 other like-minded Senate Democrats, is calling for the FCC to reclassify Internet Access Service --the transmission component separate from the content-- as a Title II telecommunications service as it attempts to recraft open Internet rules thrown out by a federal court.

That came in a letter to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler Tuesday (July 16), the deadline for initial comment on Wheeler's proposal not to reclassify. Wheeler has said Title II is still on the table, but thinks he can restore anti-blocking and anti-unreasonable discrimination" rules using other authority.

But the senators said they are concerned that approach could allow fundamentally alter the 'net by allowing "faster delivery times for websites, applications or services that pay for it," or the so-called fast and slow lanes that have become a hot-button issue.

"Broadband is a more advanced technology than phone service, but in the 21st century it performs the same essential function. Consumers and businesses cannot live without this vital connection to each other and to the world around them," they wrote. "Accordingly, it would be appropriate for the FCC to reclassify broadband to reflect the vital role the Internet plays in carrying our most important information and our greatest ideas."  

Wheeler has pointed out that the court gave the FCC a path to sustainable rules via a commercially reasonable standard for accepting some types of discrimination--say, prioritizing health monitoring over game playing--on a case by case basis, as an alternative to the ban on unreasonable discrimination the court throughout. He has said repeatedly that did not mean fast or slow lanes, or paid priority that hurt competition, innovation or investment.

The senators were joined at a press conference Tuesday (July 15) by representatives of Public Knowledge and Free Press, who are advocating for Title II.

The letter, reprinted below, was signed by Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Oreg.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Corey Booker (D-N.J.).