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Senators want more debate over another net neutrality plan

Joe Mont | August 9, 2017

The Federal Communications Commission has received more than 16 million comments on a proposal to revive net neutrality. Deliberations on the rule, introduced in May, allowed for a 30-day public comment process. Now, Democrats want more time to debate the resurrected initiative.

U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), are calling on the FCC to extend the expiring comment period.

In 2015, the FCC adopted the Open Internet Order which reclassified broadband as a telecommunication service and prohibited internet service providers from setting up internet fast and slow lanes, ensuring all online traffic is treated the same.

The D.C. Circuit Court upheld the rules in 2016, but the FCC started efforts to roll back these protections in spring of this year.

“Given the unprecedented number of comments, we urge the FCC to extend the reply comment period to allow sufficient time for the public to ensure their views are reflected in the record,” the senators wrote in a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “This proceeding has the potential to impact all Americans and as the expert agency, you should ensure that the Commission provides ample time to ensure all voices are heard.”

The letter was led by Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and in addition to Udall and Heinrich, was signed by Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

Among the comments thus far received is one signed by signed more than 800 tech startups, investors, and entrepreneurial support organizations from all 50 states.

“The success of America’s startup ecosystem depends on an open internet with enforceable net neutrality rules, ensuring that small companies can compete on a level playing field without the threat that their services will be discriminated against by big cable and wireless companies,” the letter says.

“The success of America’s startup ecosystem depends on more than improved broadband speeds,” the letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai adds. “We also depend on an open Internet—including enforceable net neutrality rules that ensure big cable companies can’t discriminate against people like us. We’re deeply concerned with your intention to undo the existing legal framework. Without net neutrality, the incumbents who provide access to the Internet would be able to pick winners or losers in the market,” the letter adds. “They could impede traffic from our services in order to favor their own services or established competitors. Or they could impose new tolls on us, inhibiting consumer choice.”