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WASHINGTON — In a letter delivered to the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday, 13 senators said the FCC must take action “to protect the openness of the Internet for future generations.”

Sens. Ed Markey, Richard Blumenthal, Cory Booker, Barbara Boxer, Benjamin Cardin, Al Franken, Kirsten Gillibrand, Jeff Merkley, Bernie Sanders, Charles Schumer, Sheldon Whitehouse, Elizabeth Warren and Ron Wyden urged FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to reclassify “the transmission component of broadband Internet access as a telecommunications service.”

Free Press Action Fund President and CEO Craig Aaron joined several of the senators and other Net Neutrality supporters during a press conference on Capitol Hill Tuesday morning to push the FCC to abandon plans that would allow online discrimination and permit ISPs to create fast lanes for the few companies and individuals able to afford the tolls.

“We're thankful to have leaders in the Senate willing to stand up for real Net Neutrality and the future of the Internet,” Aaron said. “These senators are joined by every major consumer group, thousands of startups and small businesses, and millions of everyday Internet users who rely on the Internet and want it to stay free and open.

"More people have spoken out on this issue than any other in the FCC’s history.  And they’ve been very clear: People don't want fast lanes for the few. They don’t want discrimination online. They don’t want a pay-to-play Internet, because they know they’ll be the ones who end up paying in the end. There’s only one way to safeguard the open Internet, and that’s reclassifying broadband under Title II of the Communications Act. That’s what the FCC needs to do now."

Today is the initial deadline for public comments at the FCC. Thus far Wheeler’s proposal has generated the greatest public response to any rulemaking in the agency's history; millions of people seeking strong protections for Net Neutrality have petitioned, called and filed detailed comments with the agency. Many more are expected to add their voices before the agency's next deadline for public comments on Sept. 10, 2014, after which point the FCC could adopt new rules.

The text of the senators’ letter appears below:

July 15, 2014

The Honorable Tom Wheeler
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th St. SW
Washington, DC 20554

Dear Chairman Wheeler:

An open Internet has become the world's most successful platform for innovation, job-creation and entrepreneurialism. An open Internet enables freedom of expression and the sharing of ideas around the world.  An open Internet is driving economic growth throughout the United States.

Yet, the vitality and nondiscriminatory nature of this platform is at stake today. We must take steps to prevent broadband providers from creating Internet fast lanes for those who can pay, leaving others stuck in traffic. We need to prohibit paid prioritization, which would leave start-ups and small businesses to suffer in a new Internet slow lane, harming our economy and job growth. Our goal must be to protect the openness of the Internet for future generations.

At issue today is how the FCC should use its authority to keep the Internet open for business. We remain concerned that the Commission’s recent notice of proposed rulemaking suggests approaches that could undermine the openness of the Internet. Because the item tentatively concludes that Internet service providers would be allowed to offer faster delivery times for websites, applications or services that pay for it, the Commission’s proposal could fundamentally alter the Internet as we know it.

Instead, the Commission should take this opportunity to put truly effective open Internet rules on the books, and do so using whatever authority best stops these discriminatory practices.  We believe that authority already resides in Title II. By reclassifying the transmission component of broadband Internet access as a telecommunications service, with appropriate forbearance, the FCC could prevent online discrimination.

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. 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.   

Thank you for your consideration and your work on this issue.


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